Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 2 (Unit 4): MedTech + Art

The human body is like an art form in itself. The interlacement of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones can somehow work as a moving, functional body. As mentioned in the lecture videos, artists have been fascinated with the anatomy of the human body since the Renaissance era. They began to study anatomical diagrams and illustrations that were originally meant for the medical community.

I found Dr. Gunther von Hagens's "Body Worlds" exhibition to be a perfect representation of the collaboration of medical technology and art. Through the method of plastination, the fats and fluids in deceased bodies are replaced by plastics and polymers in order to preserve the specimens. The original purpose of creating the plastinated bodies was to serve as a way for medical students to learn the anatomy of the human body.

Today's exhibitions are mainly meant to send a message to the general population. Like more traditional works of art, Body Worlds also attempts to induce a reaction from its audience. Some of the presentations display the effects of poor choices on the human body, such as the resultant lungs after smoking. Nevertheless, the viewers are free to their own interpretations of the displays.

Current director of Body Worlds discusses the exhibition's goals

Body Worlds reminds me of an iconic image, the artist's wooden figure model, also known as a manikin. The manikin serves as a reference for positions of the human body. In 1968, designer Richard Rush created the "Transparent Anatomical Mannikin", or TAM for short. Like plastination, this model, which then included plastic replicas of internal organs, was initially meant for scientific purposes. Students used the model to explore the functions of internal organs, such as the stomach for digestion or the blood vessels for circulation. This later developed into the more commonly-seen wooden manikin that is widely used by artists to recreate poses for figure drawings or sculptures. Using such models helps artists understand the human form and movements.

Left:  A Transparent Anatomical Mannikin (TAM), nicknamed "Juno", that shows the internal anatomy of a female human
Right:  An artist's manikin depicting the motion of taking a step forward

In relation to anatomy, art may also be associated with medical imaging, such as x-rays or ultrasounds. The first time I saw an x-ray of myself, I was mesmerized by the ghostly and eerie image that appeared on the screen. Some artists have drawn upon people's fascinated reactions to x-rays and used this technology to create amazing works of art. An image of the endoskeleton of a human, an animal, or an object proves to be just as fascinating as its exterior. For example, using a CT scanner, Satre Stuelke, an artist and a physician, reveals the hidden inner structure of everyday objects in his works in order to help patients understand the radiology procedures.

Similarly, doctor and radiology specialist, Kai-hung Fung applies 3D computer tomography to the human body from unusual angles and alters the lighting and colors to create unexpected images.  Fung began this work after being asked by surgeons to produce 3D images so they can better visualize complex anatomies.  His work, "What Lies Behind Our Nose", is a CT scan of the nose and sinuses of a patient with thyrotoxic eye disease.  This image won the 2007 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge sponsored by Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation.  Fung wrote of the piece, "[She had] a very straight nasal septum and wavy maxillary sinuses ... the anatomy was exceptionally beautiful."

Kai-hung Fung's "What Lies Behind Our Nose" is a CT scan of the nose and sinuses of a patient with thyrotoxic eye disease

From this unit, I learned that the medical field and the art world are connected in many surprisingly ways. Leonardo da Vinci was known for his fascination with the human body, and this showed in some of his artwork. Even today, this marriage of medical technology and art has remained prevalent and continues to develop as new innovations arise. This unit has emphasized on the fact that the human body can be expressed both scientifically and artistically.



Abrams, Avi. "Radical X-Ray Art." Dark Roasted Blend. IAN MEDIA Co., June 2011. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

"Body Worlds." Body Worlds. Institute for Plastination, 2016. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

Herman, Judith B. "Psychedelic Images From Inside Your Body." Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 09 May 2013. Web. 03 July 2016.

Kirby, Doug, Ken Smith, and Mike Wilkins. "Transparent Women, TAMs, Medical Models." Roadside America. Doug Kirby, n.d. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

"Satre Stuelke's radiology art." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, Mar. 2009. Web. Accessed 02 July 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. DESMA 9 Lectures on MedTech + Art. 2016. Video. Accessed 01 July 2016. "Body World Exposition: Part 1." YouTube. YouTube, 2007. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.


Haas, Cherie Dawn. "Put Your Artist Mannequin To Work." Artist's Network. F+W, 16 June 2015. Web. Accessed 03 July 2016.

Lamont, Tony. "History of X-ray Art and Artists." Xraypics. Wordpress, Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 02 July 2016.

Schillace, Brandy. "Celebrating Juno, the Transparent Woman." DITTRICK Museum Blog. Wordpress, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. Accessed 03 July 2016. "Body World Exposition: Part 2." YouTube. YouTube, 2007. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

1 comment:

  1. I really like how you likened the bodies at "Body Worlds" to a manikin. I too use manikins a lot for drawing assistance, which is of course, art-based. It's so true though! If you think about the display of the exhibit "Body Worlds" in relationship to a demonstration of internal body parts, it's much more easily understandable as an "art" verses a "science".

    I've never gotten an x-ray of myself, but I appreciate your description. And the addition visual of the nasal septum I find especially evocative. I would never have known what it was if I wasn't told. I wonder what other parts of the body looks like... Perhaps there's an art instillation of the entire body?