Kuang-Yi Ku with Henry de Vries

Filthy Anatomy

In collaboration with Henry de Vries (Department of Infectious Diseases, and Department of Dermatology Public Health Service, GGD Amsterdam, and Amsterdam University Medical Center, Amsterdam UMC)

Filthy Anatomy aims to challenge medical patriarchy and heteronormativity of anatomical education by expanding these to include speculative queer anatomies, and to unfold the anatomical interpretation of sexual minorities.

Filthy Anatomy explores the symbiosis between humans and microorganisms, resulting in ambiguous body borders. The purposes are to envision the anatomical representation of the LGBTQ+ community and to experiment with the visualization and materialization of microbial migration through body contact, and thus interpret the meanings and experiences of ambiguous body borders.

Anatomy in medicine defines a clear body boundary. It has the power to claim what a clean, healthy, and complete body is. However, the hierarchy of medical anatomy results in the underrepresentation of marginalized groups. It causes not only cultural discrimination but also serious problems in (access to) clinical treatments and public health. For example, intersex has always been recognized as a pathological existence instead of the diversity of human anatomical structure. In this project, as gay men, artist Kuang-Yi Ku plans to specifically focus on sexual minorities in anatomy, with Prof. Dr. Henry de Vries who specializes in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in order to propose new speculations on queer anatomies.

The project “Filthy Anatomy” aims to challenge the medical patriarchy and heteronormativity of anatomical education by constructing a dirty, ambiguous, uncertain, fluctuating anatomical system. There are three parts to this project. The first part is “Atlas of Filthy Anatomy” which is an ironic reflection on the classic anatomical textbook “Atlas of Human Anatomy” drawn by Frank H. Netter (1906-1991), a white male scholar. “Atlas of Human Anatomy” was first published in 1957 and has been widely used in medical education until now. Although it is a classic textbook, it shows the lack of inclusivity in anatomical visualization. Hence, the new “Atlas of Filthy Anatomy” will be a collection of anatomical drawings which emphasize sexual diversity in order to criticize the limitation of “Atlas of Human Anatomy”.

The jury welcomed this re-examination of how we look at our bodies and how parts of the medical profession remain stuck in educational resources, like the foundational Atlas of Human Atonomy that dates back to the fifties of the 20th century. The team will, in a decentralized way, re-make this book into an Atlas of Filthy Anatomy, signaling how knowledge building is practiced and re-evaluating textbooks and the power they are grant. The jury was compelled by the notion of microbial exchanges during sex acts that are unknown or misunderstood. This inspired the memory of a quote from Alfred Kinsey (1966), who wrote: ‘the only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform’.