Dehumanizing the Human Body


Paul Vanouse’s Items 1-2000: Dehumanizing the Human Body (1996)

A former pre-med student and artist, Vanouse created this piece with both a purpose and to be ironic. A primary purpose of this was to be able to re-create the dissection of a human body by pulling from 40GB of data from scanning the barcodes from different positions. The barcodes and scanner are set up to replicate the movements of a scalpel to further the realism. This became the closest thing in terms of obtaining information to dissecting a human body without actually having to do so.

The piece is also ironic in its focus on ethics and the separation of humans in science. The use of barcodes as labels helps to separate the realism of the human body and ethics to a documentation of body parts and data. The visual being depicted heavily with data resembles the connection between people and just being another number, or in this case a list of body parts.

The cadaver is actually a convict whose body was donated to science, but used as art instead of the organs being donated to people in a hospital. This strikes heavy on the emphasis of ethics in this piece which for the artist was part of the reason he didn’t go into medicine as a career path. The body is still used in a practical manner besides art as a way to replicate human dissection using a combination of computers screens, data, and the body’s presence itself.

Dehumanizing the Human Body

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