Innovative film marks 120th anniversary of the first medical X-ray

Radiography Courses

Birmingham City University

On World Radiography Day and the International Day of Radiology (Tuesday 8 November), a new film has been commissioned to coincide with the anniversary of the first medical X-ray performed in Birmingham 120 years ago.

X-Ray: The Unknown Quantity’ is a collaboration between Birmingham City University, Birmingham Hippodrome and Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Commissioned by Hippodrome CREATIVE, the short film brings together the creative talents of award-winning contemporary dance artist and choreographer Mickael ‘Marso’ Riviere, British Institute of Radiology artist-in-residence Hugh Turvey and Birmingham-based sound artist Justin Wiggan.

Together, they have created a unique production featuring stop animation film, contemporary dance, X-ray imagery and a sonic soundscape collated from ‘hidden’ body sounds and X-ray equipment.

‘X-Ray: The Unknown Quantity’ seeks to shine a spotlight on the UK city’s substantial contribution to world radiography, when in January 1896, the first medical X-ray was performed by Birmingham radiology pioneer Major John Hall-Edwards.

Hall-Edwards was a high profile public figure in the city at the turn of the 20th century and did much to advance scientific understanding of X-ray imaging as well as the prevention and treatment of cancer. Towards the end of his life, he lost his left arm as a result of radiation exposure and his amputated arm is now preserved in the collection of the University of Birmingham.

Graham Callister, Director of Creative Programmes at Birmingham Hippodrome said: 

“Radiography remains one of the most important tools in modern medicine, enabling diagnosis and assessment that without the use of X-rays, imaging and ultrasound would otherwise be impossible. Birmingham Children’s Hospital alone performs in excess of 69,631 examinations each year. High-energy radiation also provides life-saving treatment in cancers and tissue disease.

“This new commission therefore brings together leading local and national artists to combine hip hop dance, visual, sound and sonic art with film production skills to create an innovative new digital artwork that references the present day medical X-ray experience.”

The short film will be launched via the Birmingham Hippodrome website on Tuesday 8 November to coincide with World Radiography Day and the International Day of Radiology, a global day of celebration marking the anniversary of the discovery of X-radiation by German Physicist Wilhelm Roöntgen in 1895.

Staff from the Radiography Department at Birmingham City University took all the X-rays that appear in the film using the institution’s Digital Radiography (DR) X-ray facility and its phantoms – tissue equivalent models of body parts, that absorb and scatters X-radiation in a similar way to human tissues.

Birmingham City University’s Department of Radiography includes a cutting edge Radiography skills suite, including DR, as well as Computed Radiography (CR) X-ray facilities and a 3D fully-immersive Virtual Environment for radiotherapy training.  

Undergraduate courses are offered in Diagnostic Radiography,Radiotherapy and Medical Ultrasound as well as a range of postgraduate modules and qualifications that can be studied to develop Advanced Practice through pathways including CT, MRI and reporting.

Helen White is Head of the Radiography Department at Birmingham City University. She said:

“We were delighted to work with Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the three talented artists on this digital project that fuses art and science in a truly innovative way.

“This evocative new dance film and sonic soundscape encapsulates the pioneering nature of Major John Hall-Edwards’ work 120 years ago, while allowing us as modern radiography professionals to view our discipline through fresh eyes.

Staff and students at Birmingham City University will be given a sneak preview of ‘X-Ray: The Unknown Quantity’ on Tuesday 8 November in the Seacole Building’s lecture theatre on its City South Campus.

Artists Hugh Turvey and Justin Wiggan will be in attendance at the screening to talk more about the creative processes involved in creating the film.

To complement the digital project, Birmingham Hippodrome have also commissioned a series of free, drop-in public workshops and talks taking place across the city throughout October and November. 

View the trailer of X-Ray: The Unknown Quantity below:

Image courtesy of Hugh Turvey

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