Sunday, July 3, 2016

Medicine as an Art

I am generally a squeamish person, and yet I find myself extremely fascinated by Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit [1]. It really speaks to the abundance of art and science cross-sections that a medical process like plastination was integrated into a long-standing art exhibit on the human body.

 I was unaware that doctors were more so considered artists than scientists until the 20th century, when science became a larger part of medical treatment [2]. However, the Hippocratic Oath is evidence of medicine being in close connection to philosophy and ethics more than biological research for most of its history [3]. Both art and medicine can be considered studies of the human body and interaction; thus, it makes sense that these disciplines would interact and influence each other as well.

Classical version of the Hippocratic Oath

The most interesting part about the relationship between art and medicine to me is plastic surgery. One of my guilty pleasures is the television show Botched [4]. Doctors DuBrow and Nassif reexamine patients with “botched” plastic surgery jobs and try to give the patients a better aesthetic. It’s not just the physical act of the surgeries that intrigues me (though I also learned about performance art pieces that involve such things [5]) but the psychological effect a new surgery has on the patients. It really makes me think about how we as a society define beauty when someone’s self-confidence and self-worth relies on good or bad plastic surgery.

"Human Ken" and "Human Barbie," plastic surgery addicts [6]

To me, the best thing art can do is draw attention to absurd social constructs. On the subject of art and medicine, one of the most important social constructs is beauty and human aesthetics. Artists like Orlan draw attention to this subject, and I am eternally captivated by her [7].

1st Operation-Surgery-Performance, ORLAN Reading La Robe by Eugénie Lemoine-Luccioni, Cibachrome, 65 x 43 in, 1990

 [1] Von Hangens, Gunther. "The Idea behind Plastination." Plastination. Body Worlds, 2006. Web. 04 July 2016. <>

[2] Vesna, Victoria. Medicine Lecture Part 1. Video. 3 July 2016.

[3] Tyson, Peter. "The Hippocratic Oath Today." NOVA. PBS, 27 Mar. 2001. Web. 04 July 2016. <>

[4] "Botched." E! Online. Web. 04 July 2016. <>
[5] Vesna, Victoria. Medicine Lecture Part 3. Video. 3 July 2016.

[6] Fong, Lu. "The GQ A: Human Ken Doll Justin Jedlica on Meeting Human Barbie." GQ. 07 Apr. 2014. Web. 04 July 2016. <>
[7] Orlan. Artiste Transmédia Et Féministe. Web. 04 July 2016. <>

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