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The body as machine: first imagined in 1927, now brought to new, animated life

Throughout history, the extraordinary complexities of the human body have frequently been expressed and interpreted through metaphor. In the early 20th century, the German physician and writer Fritz Kahn caught the attention of scientists and laypeople alike with his expressive illustrations pairing human physiology with the most advanced technology of the era: industrial systems. In his most famous illustration, Der Mensch als Industriepalast, or Man as Industrial Palace (1926), Kahn visualised the interior of the human body as a bustling chemical plant. Originally an interactive installation, this short video from the German animator Henning M Lederer breathes new life into Kahn’s illustration, augmenting the original image with mechanical movements and sounds. Lederer’s update offers a visually and conceptually rich melding of technology, biology and design, echoing a time when machinery permeated the collective consciousness in a manner quite similar to computing technology today.

1 March 2019

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