Archive for the ‘Week4_Human Body and Medicine’ Category

Week 4 Plastic Surgery, Art, and Medicine by Tung Dao

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

It seems as though bizarre body related art is a common theme in the videos that are shown in class. Earlier on in the course, we were introduced to Stelarc, a Greek artist whose work involves suspending himself by the means of needles; all that, and in the nude. Ok, sure, he does combine art moderne with robotics and, thus, technology, but to most people, it is still a very extreme form of art. However, to exploit the capabilities of the human body is as artful as a surgeon’s knife, go too far and it is disaster. Then comes Orlan’s performance. From the video, it appears as though the art was some sort of body modification. She reads in French, “The skin disappoints…, that man treats his skin so cheaply…, he will shed it at the slightest bidding.” The video then goes on to show her continuing her moving recitation in French; all that, while having what appears to be a liposuction procedure. Personally, I think the recitative in French really adds to the drama of the short film. Epic? Yes. The common thread between the two art forms is the function of the human body. In both cases, the body is used as a canvas upon which the art is applied. It is then worthwhile to note the ethics that are involved behind such procedures. The Hippocratic Oath, the oath that those practicing medicine take before practicing their practice, governs the method of doctors. However, when artists desire to proclaim their practice, there will be unavoidable clash with the confines of doctors.

The oath provides a safe boundary for the practice of medicine; however, humans are not perfect and will break it, either willingly or not. From the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, Louis Lasagna writes that practitioners shall “apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism”. In the case of Orlan, the procedure that the doctors perform on her does not treat anything. She is not sick, nor ill, or is facing death. The procedure, then, is done out of the patient’s desire for art, not for a medical purpose. This does not violate the oath. If a patient is not sick, and a procedure involving the body is requested by the patient, as long as the procedure does not do any harm to the patient, then there is no harm done by the doctors that perform it. So Orlan’s recitative whilst undergoing liposuction is pretty amazing art. The experience itself is beyond human limits, and is something to appreciate. The same goes for Stelarc’s body suspension. By pushing the envelope of the human body, he approaches the line where art and medical procedure intersect, but without crossing it.

The world of plastic surgery is one in which we see lots of people taking it too far. Michael Jackson and Jocelyn Wildenstein are two examples in which plastic surgery seems to have gone too far for too little gain. The doctors have entered the trap of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. While Orlan and Stelarc produced art, cases like Wildenstein’s usually isn’t art and points towards some sort of psychological trouble. Take for instance, Hang Mioku, who the Telegraph reports “hooked from the beginning…, [then] found a doctor who was willing to give her silicone injects”. What truly takes the art away and makes this disorder is that she “resorted to injecting cooking oil into her face” after running out of the silicone. That crossed the line. When there is bodily harm, it is no longer art and is just bizarre.

Tung Dao

(There will be no image in the post itself due to the rather graphic nature of the images, just links will be provided.)

Week 4_ Medicine and Art as One by Joseph Duy Nguyen

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The more our DESMA 9 class moves forward, the more I realize that it was wrong of me to ever separate science and art into two different fields. There are so many similarities between the two to classify them into two different groups. For this week of class, we are focusing on the integration of medicine and art.

Just by reading both the Hippocrates oath and the modern version of it written by Louis Lasagna in 1964, I have found that both art and medical students need to have the same mindset. Just as an artist creates a piece of art for the sake of others to enjoy, a doctor should practice medicine for the wellbeing of his patients. However, that value does not hold true to many doctors nowadays. Contemporarily, people have to struggle financially just to be able to seek medical treatment. What happened to the “May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help” part in the modern version of the Hippocrates oath? The taking of the oath has become more of a tradition than an actual statement of values put into practice. An example of a blatant violation of the oath is the report that Kaiser Permanente hospitals dump homeless patients who cannot pay out onto the streets. I am sure this kind of scenario does not happen only at Kaiser Permanente. I am not saying every doctor is like this. There are many respectable doctors who truly care about the wellbeing of their patients. In short, I think the medical field has somewhat become tainted with the greed for money. If only the doctor’s mindset was more similar to the artist’s, then America might have a better health care system. There will be doctors fighting for their patients’ wellbeing rather than letting hospitals decide who receives what treatment.

The integration of art and medicine can be seen by many who are well versed in both areas. There are people that are both a medical practitioner and an artist. These “artists” are thinking outside the box, which society likes to stress but does not like to carry out. Some artists use medical instruments as a medium for their artwork, while others use actual body tissues. Linton Meagher, a medical practitioner and visual artist, incorporates medicine directly into his artwork by using pills and medical instruments as his medium. Many of his artworks consist of the arrangement of pills and scalpels. From afar his artworks may seem like many other artworks, but seen up close, the medium of his art is very different from the traditional paints and clay works. Another very ingenious creation of art with the unification of both art and medicine is the idea of plastination by Dr. Gunther von Hagens. He created the technique of plastination in an attempt to perfectly preserve the human body for medical institution to use as a teaching tool. His technique has become a tool of art instead of solely being a medical technique. His exhibition of the human body preserved by plastination has been viewed by over 26 million people all over the world. This proves that medicine does not have to be a rigid tool of science, but rather can be a device of both science and art created for a wide array of people to enjoy.

Image of a woman created with surgeons scalpels.

Image of a woman created with surgeon's scalpels.

Image created with medicinal pills.

Image created with medicinal pills.

Plastination of a human body.

Plastination of a human body.

Plastination of a person in a skateboarding position.

Plastination of a person in a skateboarding position.

-Joseph Duy Nguyen

Week 4: Human Body- Canvas or Science Experiment? By selenni cisneros

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

As medicine and science advance, the human body becomes more and more like a science experiment. Numerous medical studies are being performed on human beings, using with new pills, machines, techniques, etc. While the human body is being experimented on, it can also be seen as a canvas. There is a saying that says, “My body is temple.” Just the same, it can be seen as a canvas. It can be a blank canvas when one is bare; the clothes, jewelery, accessories, shoes, tattoes, and piercings can be the paint. In another sense, body alterations can be seen as the paint. When you split your knee open, get stitches, and as a result get a scar, that scar alters your body, becoming the paint on your canvas. By the time you are older, your body has been altered or changed in one way or another, by scars, sun exposure, and even plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is where the science experiment meets the canvas.

Plastic surgery is where science meets art. Science presents us plastic surgery, modifying the human body, which to some can be seen as art. Plastic surgery is the paint brush, the plastic surgeon is the painter, the human body is the canvas, and the result is the finished product.

Modifying your body can be seen as beautiful. But where does one draw the line? A helpless child that is born with a cleft-lip did not ask to be born with that imperfection. Just the same, a random woman did not ask to be born with small breasts, which can be seen as an imperfection in our image-obsessed America. The typical response would be that the child with the cleft-lip would deserve cosmetic surgery more than the woman with the small breasts. While I certainly agree, I feel torn at the same time. The child would be getting plastic surgery for the same reason: because our society is obesses with beauty and perfection. Let me add, some cosmetic surgeries are not performed to please the patient and make them beautiful, but because their life is in danger. Setting those surgeries aside, there are still many operations being performed for pleasure and to attain a better physical appearance. In 2007 alone, about 450,000 liposuction procedures took place within men and women. Nearly 400,000 breast augmentations occurred within that year as well. While plastic surgery helps people with severe disfigurement, it is contaminating our society as well. Instead of high school graduates receiving cars or computers or college tuition money as graduation gifts, they are receiving nose jobs as presents. Our society is taking the concept of beauty and taking it to extreme heights, and is escalating into a big problem. Little girls grow up watching television, seeing rich famous movie stars with enormous breasts, lucious lips, petite perfect noses, and not an ounce of fat on their liposuction-obsessed bodies. Don’t get me wrong, there are several stars that have healthy yet beautiful bodies and look down uppon plastic surgery, but there is no denying the fact that stars tend to go through some sort of cosmetic surgery throughout their lifetime. And who is to blame them? They themselves set the trends and set the bar that much higher. The younger and the more beautiful you are, the more likely you are to nab that audition. The thing is that these people are constantly in the public eye. They are setting the example to all of America, and to every country out there with televisions and/or internet. Plastic surgery is becoming public surgery. It’s becoming more and more common, and more people are putting “Plastic surgery” on their Christmas List.

Plastic surgery doesn’t make you beautiful. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There is a chance that the patients that undergo plastic surgery will never be completely satisfied with their bodies. That’s just human nature– always searching for the next best thing. Those patients could end up returning to cosmetic surgery in order to help them reach “beauty.” Plastic surgery can become an obsession.  While it is a science, and an art, it is also a curse. A season character on the FX show Nip/Tuck had a motto that said “Beauty is a curse on the world.” Just the same, plastic surgery can be seen as a curse on the world.

Your body is your canvas.

Baby with a cleft-lip.

Nose job

Setting examples to their fans.

Setting examples to their fans.

Week 4 Blog: On Film Scene Shown in Lecture by Sara Captain

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I have found the last few lectures quite intriguing, as watching sci-fi movies has never really been my cup of tea. In fact, you might say I have avoided sci-fi films the last nine years of my life, lest I might come upon a movie as nightmarish as “Independence Day” again.
But after watching the first scene from “Children of Men” in class on Tuesday, I had a difficult time waiting until Friday when I made plans to watch the rest of it with my friends. I decided to give the horror sci-fi genre another chance because after all, what could possibly be scary about a movie that not only was called “Children of Men,” but also involved my favorite sexy British accents. So, Friday came, and the first scene played, with all the bleakness and remorse of a celebrity’s sudden death, as the main character mundanely got his coffee. The atmosphere in the movie reminded me of September 11th, 2001 as the actors in the movie showed faces of utter terror and disbelief of such horror. Then the bomb went off in the coffee shop, the main character looked over his shoulder, a woman stumbled out of the smoke carrying a leg. Cut.

Lights, camera, action. The second scene answered a few of my questions, but created a thousand more. In fact, the next few scenes were littered with such detail that I turned to my friend and asked who the director of the movie was, as it was so well-thought-out. He doesn’t know directors, he said.
Why are most people unfamiliar with directors’ names? To what extent is filmmaking an art? As demonstrated by this movie, “Children of Men,” a film can serve so many purposes. It is comprised of so many different individual fields of art and areas of science that it is hard to describe a film in any one way. There are writers for the script, artists for the make-up and clothes, cameramen for the extraction, musicians for the sounds, directors for the props and stage settings, and actors for the roles and faces. Furthermore, a film, like a Picasso, can contain very serious social and political implications. In “Children of Men,” it is very obvious what the director thinks of the direction in which society is heading. With bleak lighting, he unites two contradictory aspects of human society: our earthly, modest, animal origins and our synthesized, immodest, technological superiority. For example, one man is sitting at a transparent computer and instead of using a mouse, which in the future is considered old-fashioned, he has wires strapped along his veins and bones on the outside of his rough, almost dirty, skin. Another example can be found in the scene where the main character’s ex-wife is flirtatiously playing a high-tech game with him in the car one moment, and the next moment he is holding her neck, trying to keep the waterfall of blood from pouring out of her pale, shot neck. No matter how far we make it technologically and materially, we are still animal, still human at heart. Although in “Children of Men,” technology is able to change our beginning, the one thing it cannot do is change our inevitable ending.

Frightened, at this scene I stopped the movie and suggested a game of cards for my friends.

Week4 Human Mind and Medicine by Eric Debbold

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The topic this week, about the integration of the human organic form with the robotic and technological age really piqued my interest.  I was able to find an extremely interesting article about the ultimate fruition of this concept HERE.   The article I read was about the creation of Blue Brain.  In the words of one of the creators:

The behavior of the computer replicates, with shocking precision, the cellular events unfolding inside a mind. “This is the first model of the brain that has been built from the bottom-up,” says Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the director of the Blue Brain project. “There are lots of models out there, but this is the only one that is totally biologically accurate. We began with the most basic facts about the brain and just worked from there.”

This is Your Brain on Computers

This is Your Brain on Computers

Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, it is important to note that Blue Brain is not a replication of the entire brain, or even of a human brain.  It simply is a model for a very small part of the brain, called the neocortical column.  However, the implications are extraordinary.  Blue Brain accurately models the behavior of individual neurons in the neocortical column to a degree more accurate than individual tests on actual biological subjects (!).  The virtual neurons are more real than reality.  This project has the potential to debunk and demystify consciousness:

Blue Brain scientists are confident that, at some point in the next few years, they will be able to start simulating an entire brain. “If we build this brain right, it will do everything,” Markram says. I ask him if that includes self-consciousness: Is it really possible to put a ghost into a machine? “When I say everything, I mean everything,” he says, and a mischievous smile spreads across his face.

The only limiting factor at this point is power.  Which is kind of cool in my book.  For a computer to be able to do what my brain can, it would require literally football fields worth of the most advanced supercomputers in the world, supplied by three billion dollars worth of power a year.  My brain runs on Coca-Cola and quesadillas, and is barely larger than a softball.  I don’t know if that qualifies as art, but nature certainly is beautifully powerful.  A fact like that also challenges each of us to exercise our brains to their fullest potential, and to not take ourselves for granted.  How have you used your ultra-fast-supercomputer today?  Watching the Friends marathon?

We are coming to a new chapter in human existence, maybe not within the next ten years, but certainly in the next hundred we may see a Blue Brain indistinguishable from a human mind.  This is both exciting and terrifying.  While the industrial age was epitomized by the struggle for man to find his place along the side of machines more capable than he at manual labor, the Neo-Information age may be defined by the struggle of the world’s intellectuals to find their place alongside a new generation of thinking computers.  What happens when WebMD is better at predicting and treating patients than human doctors?  Or when tactical computing systems have a better grasp of military strategy than even the most experienced generals?  Or political programs a better grasp of politics and world issues?  I leave you with The Onion:
Robot Overlords, Are We Giving Them Too Much Power?

by Eric Debbold

Week_4 Art and Medicine by Braxton Little

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The human body is one of the most fascinating things that our culture has yet to completely understand. Artists have been drawing renditions of human bodies for ages. There is a certain “flow” to the anatomy of man, which can be mangled when not drawn correctly. As early as 1510, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci began dissecting human bodies, and drawing tendons, muscles, and other internal organs. There were both pieces of art, and scientific research into how the human body works and is put together. These artworks were also the first time many people of his time had seen inside the human body. Dissecting was something that the select few were able to do, and when artists documented their work, it gave the general public a chance to see what our insides look like.
I first became interested in the human body as a form of art when my parents took me to an exhibit at the science center called Body Worlds. It is an exhibit where, through a process called plastination, an artist/scientist was able to preserve the insides of humans and animals, in a way that they could be kept together and shown as art pieces. Some of the pieces included a man riding a horse, kicking a soccer ball, and a baby still inside its mother. You could see all the muscles of the human body in their different positions as different actions were being performed. The creator of the exhibit is Gunther von Hagens, who also developed the plastination process. Plastination has benefited both artists and scientists, and helped in merging them together through the shared interest in the human body. While Gunther would be considered a scientist to most, he is also an artist. The human body can be turned into exhibits because people are so interested in it that whenever the general public gets a chance to view inside the body, people flock to get a chance to see it. No one had even done an exhibit like this, and the art forms of the human body were something that are unique to the artist, much like a painting is unique to the artist.

I strongly believe that the human body does not need to be shown in this form for it to be considered an art. I think that when a man or woman is modeling, their bodies are the art. The photographer uses his skill to position the body in a certain position, making it a work of art.
I admit that I was a bit skeptic regarding medicine and whether or not it is a form of art. I feel that medicine is usually taught out of a book, which says exactly what to do, making it something that is not unique. However, I was ignoring the fact that medicine is something that, through experimenting and research, is adapted and improved. Experiments are the different forms of medicine, which are unique to the scientists performing them. A scientists urge to have a break through in medicine can be compared to an artists desire to paint the perfect painting, one that he/she is completely satisfied with. This goes back to our weak one lecture on the blending of art and science, into a third culture. Scientists treat their experiments as works of art, and take full credit for their work. While some small details in the original Hippocratic Oath have changed to form the revised one, one thing stands out to me. The fact that medicine is also to be treated as an art form has not changed. I think that the bond between an artist and their work of art was something that the writer of the oath knew would evoke respect and dedication out of people in the medical profession. The oath wants these people to realize how they should treat their work, and he did that by merging art with medicine. This also shows the tremendous respect that people at the time the oath was written had for artists. This was during a time when most scientists would not consider themselves as artists or something of that radical nature. With the oath, it was acknowledging the huge realm of art and its blend with medicine.

Medicine and Art by Oscar Chacon

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The topic of the human body and medical technology was especially interesting to me because of my thoughts on potentially attempting to become pre-med.  I was uncertain on how the integration of art and science would meet on this subject matter.  Although after the week’s lecture I was brought to the realization that art and medicine have a strong correlation between one another.

            Specifically, classically trained artist in the Renaissance who were required to undergo human dissections to understand the anatomy of the human body.  It is critical for artist of this nature to understand the formation of the human body if they wish to depict it naturally as it is, or they want to manipulate it to simply represent that form.  The study of human anatomy is a scientific process that can easily be seen as critical for understanding the human form.  From the few art classes I have taken in my class I can see how this can be important especially for artist of that time. I have always wanted to gain more understanding of the form of the human body in order to depict it properly on paper or canvas.  Human dissection is impossible for that purpose, but today’s equivalent for studying human anatomy I believe is studying models and their form.  I had this opportunity once for a more advanced class and gained much more understanding.

            The process of plastination can be thought of as a tribute to this study of human anatomy.  The work of Gunther von Hagen’s was a result of having been, “Developed in cooperation with specialists across disciplines including the humanities and arts,” as detailed on the web site of his exhibit.  This is a perfect example of the strong connection between humanities and the sciences working together to display to the public the inner workings of the human body.

        The reading for this weeks “The Oath” by Hippocrates in itself is an example of the intermixture of by standing as a literature speaking on the practice of science.  The text exemplifies a time when the separation of art and science was unknown since the science of medicine is referred to as an art.  There is also the integration of morality and philosophical input on the practice of medicine as a guide for its practitioners.  The modern version of “The Oath” by Louis Lasagna strips the implicit reference to medicine as an art, which stood stronger than the modern direct reference implying its current separation.  Although, there is a strong focus on the emotions and experiences in relations and conduct between doctors and patients that are based not on science but humanities studies.

Orlan’s interpretation of the use of cosmetic surgery is disturbing to say the least, but it shows its points and grasps the opportunity that constantly arises from the progression of technology and science.  Artists are constantly in search for new mediums to work with to portray their ideas, especially in modern day where there is virtually an unlimited amount of resources. From a personal opinion I would have to say that this sort of practice is unnecessary and to some extent immoral, not in a religious manner, but more of admitting publically to your own physical imperfections and letting everyone know you care so much about yourself to go through that process.  None the less this feat of the scandalous surgery is illustrates the inevitable correlation between medicine and humanities.

-Oscar Chacon

Week 4 - The Conventions of Plastic Surgery by Jane Chen

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I’d like to start by including an excerpt from the New York Academy of Sciences regarding their exhibition “Face Value: Plastic Surgery and Transformation.”

Transforming one’s identity in the early 21st century offers an unprecedented array of options—from surgical manipulations to regenerative medicine, from the fashion world to the pharmacy. Health and disease, beauty and the monstrous resonate as end points on a continuum of what we largely consider “normal.” To this mix add the media hype that airbrushes its images in the illusionary world of the Photoshop fix. How far shall one go in altering one’s appearance or personality? What is a true self? What dynamics are at play between inner psyche and outward guise? While some intervention is linked to medical necessity, other instances of body transformation reside in social conformity, biometric disguise, rites of passage, or even neurosis. Others use their corporeal selves as sites of investigation concerning ownership and control of their own bodies. (

Technically speaking, plastic surgery procedures are categorized into two types: cosmetic and reconstructive.  Cosmetic surgery is performed to reshape normal structures of the body in order to improve the patient’s appearance and self-esteem.  These are generally not covered by health insurance because it is elective and done on a voluntary basis.  The second category is reconstructive surgery, which is performed on abnormal structures of the body, caused by congenial defects, developtmental abnormalities, trauma, infections, tumors, or disease.  It is generally done to improve function or to approximate a normal appearance.  These types of surguries are generally covered by health insurance agencies( 

In today’s generation, the profund influence of Hollywood on the public has led an ever increasing desire to be felt acceptable by others.  This generally results in an obsession with body images and fashion trends.  Consequently, the increasing number of people undergoing plastic surgery has increased dramatically.  In fact, the number of surgical cosmetic procedures have more than doubled from 1997 to 2007, with breast augmentations and liposuction being the most popular procedures.  Although the majority of these procedures lead to fairly desirable results, there are the extreme cases where these cosmetic reconstructions have gone extremely wrong or become undesireable in the eyes of the public.  Examples of this would include Michael Jackson’s numerous cosmetic surgeries as well as Jocelyn Wildenstein’s surgeries which have earned her the title “the Bride of Wildenstein,” in reference to the Bride of Frankenstein.

On the other hand, French artist Orlan is famous for her work on plastic surgery using her own body as the art medium.  She describes her work as “carnal art,” defined as a self-portrait in the classical sense, yet realized in the technology of our time.  Addtionally, states that her work “is a struggle against the innate, the inexorable, the programmed, nature, DNA, and God.”  Against convention, Orlan has even transformed the very plastic surgery process itself, turning the procedure into a choreographed performance where designers like Paco Rabanne and Issey Miyake have designed costumes for her to wear during the procedure.  She records and broadcasts her procedures live to audiences around the world and also accepts questions from the public during these procedures. 

Through a series of surgeries, she aimed to have the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, the nose of Gerome’s Psyche, the lips of Francois Boucher’s Europa, the eyes of Diana, and the forehead of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.  Orlan’s goal in these surgeries is to acquire the ideal of beauty as suggested by the men who painted women.  During her seventh procedure, she asked the surgeon to put implants which are normally used to make the cheekbones more prominent on her temples, resulting in her distinct look today.


by Jane Chen

Art playing a key role in the 3 stages of the human life-Rocio flores

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Art plays a key role in the production and preservation of the human body. You might question what does she mean by body production and preservation? The answer comes in the 3 stages of the human body the birth, the death and after life.

Yes, art plays a key role in the creation of the human body, which starts with the baby. There are various artists that utilize their techniques very well, to create doll that appears like a baby. The dolls are created with such accuracy that they resemble a new born, from the similar skin tone and facial features. These babies are then sold to many people for hundreds of dollars; most of the consumers are mothers. What do I mean by mothers? Mothers are women that decide to take these dolls in to their life’s to treat them as their own baby. Yes they change them and show feelings towards them, even take the babies out to take stroll with them. When they travel, those that approach the mother to take a look at the beautiful new born, don’t know that what the women is holding is a fake baby until they touch it. This art of the reborn baby displays the power of art in the human body, which is that one can create a human “body” to appear how one desires.

reborn baby

Art also plays a key role in the death of a human. What I mean by death of a human is the use of the human body after death, for art. Art utilizes actual human bodies for art exhibits. And you may ask how to art exhibits get a hold of human bodies? The answer is simple when a human dies he or she decides to donate their body to art. Then the artist takes it from there. The artists dissects the body and keeps every single body part then places the body in certain positions to display how it acts at certain times or during certain activities. This art like you may see it relates to science, for the exhibit allows its tourist to examine the body, which relates to science. As we can see from this exhibit the humanities shouldn’t be divided in the university setting or out of the university setting, we should create a bride to allow much more creativities and allow the expansion of knowledge on a subject.

human body exhibit

Art also plays a key role in the afterlife of a human. This can be seen in the mummification taken part during the time of the ancient Egyptians. This art is important for the Egyptians for it helps them reach their afterlife. The art comes in the technique used for the mummification of the human. The body is desiccated; all the organs were taken out, placed in canopic jars, except the heart. Then the body was covered in special salt and different oils to prevent it from drying, and have bandages placed upon their body. However many like Tutankhamen, placed gold or had special cases for their bodies, as seen below, which were elegant and showed their status in society, usually pharos had this body case.

In the end art can be produce the three different stages of the human body. This art may either aid the mother in allowing her to have a baby, in the sciences to better understand the function of the human body or simply in the aid to reach the afterlife.

~Rocio Flores

Week4: Forensic Art by Nolan Nishimura

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

What is the first thing that comes to mind when looking at this picture? Abstract art? Well this is actually a picture of a virus, the green object, being attacked by antibodies, the blue and pink objects. Looks like a piece of art though doesn’t it? I just found that interesting. In lecture this week, we learned about how the human body and medicine can also be used as a medium for art. We explored the Body Worlds exhibit a little, how robotics is becoming more influential in medicine, and how CAT scans can be used to construct an image of the body from thin slices, similar to an object moving in the fourth dimension. These works of art created from the body are reminiscent to a type of art that has been used for awhile called forensic art. These are the drawings and animations used by police in order to put a face, literally, on the bodies of murder victims. Sometimes only the skeletal remains are left of the individuals, so it is hard to identify them. Forensic art allows law enforcement to create an image of a possible face just from looking at the skull. New technology allows this to be done as 3D imaged on a computer, which can be extremely helpful in identifying.

“They first scan a skull to create a 3D computer model of it. Next, they identify sites on the skull for which tissue depths are available. The software model then automatically adds flesh of appropriate thickness to the skull, suitably adjusted for variables such as ethnicity and sex.” This was from an article in 2003.

This type of art has been dubbed Forensic Art and can be extremely helpful in identifying victims because it can put emotion and personality onto the face, which really individualizes people. For years, before this program was created, forensic artists have had to sculpt a model of the face of the victim, but have had difficulty adding expression and emotion onto their work. “An artist cannot give the model personality, and a lot of times, that’s what people recognize.”

Forensic art was actually influenced by another type of art called composite art. This type of art is used to help identify and put a face on criminals. These are the sorts of things on wanted posters. The interesting thing to think about however is that these types of art are possible due to discoveries in the field of medicine. Without a good understanding of the human body, these types of images would never have been constructed. As we learn more and more about anatomy, we can draw more detailed pictures. This is how medicine and art go hand in hand. It is more than just the first picture of the virus and the antibodies and their similarity to a work of abstract art. It is the fact that as either art or medicine advances they help the other along as well. Forensic and composite art are good examples of this in action.

nolan nishimura