There's a fascinating exhibit at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo right now called Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love. It showcases 150 works of art that represent our fascination with the human body, both as a living machine that we're constantly trying to understand and as an artistic medium. The iconic example of this is Leonardo Da Vinci's cranium drawings from the 15th century (pictured right), part of the Royal Collection belonging to Queen Elizabeth II.
But there's a lot more than that. Let's just say this was the first time I'd seen a 1650 amputation saw, George Washington's dentures, and a 19th century English male anti-masturbatory apparatus all in one place. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to explain it in words, so I'll show you some images after the jump.
Warning: some of these images are graphic, possibly NSFW, and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
This Tibetan ink drawing shows three bodies and what is believed to be the wiring behind the five senses and the consciousness — including the vertebrae and the solar plexus. Tibetan medicine, which is over two thousand years old, aims to free individuals from both physical disease and ignorance. Watercolor drawings of the twelve great teachers of Tibetan medicine, robed and seated, sit atop the main illustration.
Three Tibetan Anatomical Figures; c. 1800; watercolour and black ink on white linen; Wellcome Library
It was quite amazing to see these aged superheroes in Gilles Barbier's L'Hospice (2002) — including Captain America on an IV and Wonder Woman with sagging breasts — in person.
Gilles Barbier; L'Hospice / The Nursing Home; 2002; six wax figures, television, various elements
dimension variable; Courtesy: Galerie G.-P. & N. Vallois, Paris
Glass eyeballs like you've probably never seen before. There are fifty in this wood-and-velvet case from early 20th century Liverpool.
E. Muller; Set of 50 Artificial Glass Eyes; 1900-1940 / Liverpool, England; glass, wood, velvet, leatherette; Science Museum, London
The wooden cage on the far left is a shock therapy machine from the turn of the 20th century. At the time, the tech was super revolutionary and hospitals were desperately trying to get their hands on one.
Photo: Osamu Watanabe courtesy of the Mori Art Museum.
The most provocative display in the exhibit was a series of before-and-after photographs showing people on the brink of death and again immediately after their passing. Most of the portraits were of adults, but there was this one of a 17 month old baby girl who was born with a tumor.
Walter Schels; Life before Death – Elmira Sang Bastian, 14th January 2004/23rd March 2004; photography
This crazy-looking chair contraption is actually an early 1900s X-ray machine created by German Ernest Pohl.
Pohl Omniskop X-ray apparatus; 1910; German
Science Museum, London
The exhibit runs through February 28.