Possible Bodies

Visible Human

Item number: 072
Item title: Visible Human
Entry of the item into the inventory: 26 July 2017

Planning for the Visible Human project began in 1986.

The data set of the male was completed in November 1994.

The one of the female in November 1995.

There are currently efforts to repeat this project with higher resolution images but without the cadaver.

The cadaver was encased and frozen in a gelatin and water mixture in order to stabilize the specimen for cutting.

Being the specimen citizen Joseph Paul Jernigan, a 38-year-old who was executed by lethal injection accused of murder on August 5, 1993. The specimen had agreed to donate his body for scientific research or medical use, not knowing about the Visible Human Project. (for more on the continuum that connects industries like the penitentiary, the photographic and the biomedical, check item nr. http://possiblebodies.constantvzw.org/inventory/?074)

The specimen was then “cut” in the axial plane at 1 millimeter intervals (for more info on anatomical planes, see item nr. 70 (http://possiblebodies.constantvzw.org/inventory/?070)

For that, it was needed to grind the surface away in order to take a frontal picture of it. Frontal meaning: coincident with axial plane (in this case)

The process of grinding the surface away is entirely destructive to the specimen and leaves no usable or preservable “slice” of the cadaver. It was destructive at the beginning, and continued being destructive until the end. Entirely destructive.

This material process is not creative nor transformative, but destructive.

Freezing caused the brain of the man to be slightly swollen, and his middle ear ossicles were lost during preparation of the slices. Nerves are hard to make out since they have almost the same color as fat, but many have nevertheless been identified. Small blood vessels were collapsed by the freezing process. Tendons are difficult to cut cleanly, and they occasionally smear across the slice surfaces.

The body has only one testicle, is missing his appendix, and has tissue deterioration at the site of lethal injection.

The scanning, slicing and photographing took place at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where additional cutting of anatomical specimens continues to take place.

No animals were harmed during the shooting.


Later on the data acquired axially can then be rendered into many other sections. See item nr. 71 for a longer Herstory (http://possiblebodies.constantvzw.org/inventory/?071)