Medical Avatar: The Health Time Machine by Virgil Wong

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 to Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Location & Time: 

Art Exhibition @ Perspective Gallery (Squires)

Opening reception on Friday, August 29 from 5-7pm

Workshops @ Perspective Gallery (Squires) - September 1 and September 3 from 2-4pm

Lecture @ Colonial Hall (Squires) - September 2 from 7-9pm

A multidisciplinary exhibit at Virginia Tech’s Perspective Gallery illustrates how art and technology can combine to help people visualize how their health choices affect their physical being. Virgil Wong’s Medical Avatar: The Health Time Machine explores the imaging of health data and its influence on patient-physician interaction and behavior change.

The exhibit is a collaboration of the Perspective Gallery and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, with funding from the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

Medical Avatar: The Health Time Machine is on display through Thursday, October 18, at the Perspective Gallery on the second floor of the Squires Student Center. The Perspective Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The gallery is closed Mondays. The exhibit will also be on display at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke, Virginia, from Thursday, November 20, to late March, 2015. A reception will be held at Perspective Gallery on Friday August 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. and it is free and open to the public.

Medical Avatar: The Health Time Machine includes digital self-portraits of people with chronic diseases based on their self-tracked symptom data. Using a mobile app developed by Wong, patients create personalized avatars and medical timelines to more effectively communicate their medical histories to their doctors. These technological self-portraits, including shapes of various sizes and colors to represent specific symptoms over time, capture what the patient feels in his or her body and display those emotions for others to see.

Wong is a New York City-based artist and cognition technology researcher at Columbia University. His research suggests that patient visualizations of the future effects of smoking and obesity can motivate patients to change their health behavior. The exhibit also includes art based on broader epidemiological data from southwest Virginia and regression analyses that predict possible states of future health.

Gallery visitors are given the opportunity to track their own health information and paint their own medical time travel self-portraits based on this data.

The exhibit is curated by Robin Scully Boucher, Student Centers and Activities arts program director. Boucher was Wong’s high school art teacher in 1990 and is pleased to welcome him back to southwest Virginia for his exhibit.

The partners:

  • Operating at the nexus of arts, design, engineering, and science, the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) is composed of faculty and student researchers from multiple disciplines coming together in a living laboratory that fosters creativity and promotes critical reflection. This unique research environment supports ICAT’s mission to forge a pathway between trans-disciplinary research and artistic output, scientific and commercial discovery, and educational innovation.
  • The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute leverages Virginia Tech’s world-class strength in basic sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff and rich history in medical education. Virginia Tech Carilion improves human health and quality of life by providing leadership in medical education and biomedical and clinical research.
  • Perspective Gallery is committed to exhibiting the finest quality fine art with a special interest in providing art viewing opportunities which pique curiosity and create bridges within the academic and world community. The Perspective Gallery enriches the college experience by exhibiting artwork which expands a student’s conceptual world.

The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.

Written by Sandy Broughton.