Creating Art with MRI

The multiple possibilities of using MRI in artistic contexts

March 1, 2013

Culturally associated with the medical activity, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a technique that allows the visualization of the body structures that are not directly accessible  to the naked eye. However, MRI also has an aesthetic component that is the basis of inspiration for several works of artistic expression. This component (aesthetics) is recognized not only in the artistic world. In the laboratory , the aesthetic value of MRI is recognized.

Here, however, it assumes a secondary role since in this context, these images are to serve other purposes (helping to decide if a certain structure is healthy or not). On the contrary, in the artistic context, aesthetic value is of primordial importance, being identified, deconstructed and interpreted by the artist in order to create his work.

There are artistic products inspired by the MRI, that are based only on the beauty of the image, and there are others based on the data itself or the process of obtaining the MRI image, whether regarding the mathematical transformations that enables the transformation of the data in image, or the process for obtaining data (that results from the recording of the electric current emitted by hydrogen atoms – see NOTE, at the bottom of the post)

Here are some artistic expressions based on the beauty of the MRI images:

– Inside Insides

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MRI of a small cactus

Better Man Than He (MRI Music Video)  – Sivu

- Alya Red: A computational heart – Barcelona Supercomputing Center

- Life Lines – Angela Palmer 

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Glass self portrait of the artist, based on MRI scans.

- Me, Myself and MRI

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Brain MRI scan.

- Embroidered MRI slice- Becky Stern

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embroidered MRI scan of the knee


Use of data / processes associated with RM for artistic production:

- Model of a human heart 

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Heart sculpture based on MRI data.

- RAPT I – (Video) Justine Cooper

Functional PortraitsMarta de Menezes and Patricia Figueiredo

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MRI scans of an individual. Red areas represent activated locations of the brain.

- Eco – Marc Didou 

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Eco Sculpture


These are some of the examples where art and science intersect, raising awareness of the beauty of science and philosophical questions on science.

NOTE:MRI is an electromagnetic technique that realigns hydrogen nuclei in the body. It exploits the property of these atoms to move when they are inserted into a bigger magnetic field and to align themselves according to field-specific frequency. The magnetic field causes these atoms to emit an electric current which is translated into an image of the scanned area” (1).

Link: (1) 



Written by Susana Pereira

Susana Simões Pereira, maths teacher and PhD in science teaching and communication. I enjoy games and photography and I'm passionate for science and art, specially when together in the same context. You can follow my updates on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.