More Projections


Micro- and macrocosms

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Let’s shortly go back in time again and look at the depictions of various known things and phenomenons people projected into the human body – that was not explored at all – to give “sense” to it: Here micro- and macrocosms play a crucial role. Theories and interpretations about what is and is going on in your body and the connection between its parts, have a long history and take partially strange and chaotic shapes and weird chapters and anecdotes.

In his Metaphysics Plato said the human shall be a scaled-down reproduction of the universe. The macrocosm, the world order on a large scale, corresponds to the microcosm of the human body.[7] In the shown illustration, out of the first so called “anatomy book” (PIC1), you see the body parts corresponding to stellar constellations – from Aries for the head, to Pisces for the feet. We often see big natural phenomenons reflected in the borders of the body organism. For example, in PIC2 out of the first anatomy book by Frederic Ruysch, there are plants resembling organs.

With the time the body interior gained more and more space with zooming techniques, depth creating art techniques and all the different functions that were explored. So, projections from e.g. the zodiac signs (PIC1) made way for trees created by flesh, muscles and veins (PIC2).  Those were followed by skin landscapes created by cells (PIC3). And they themselves made way for an animation that zooms out to the milky way (?) so that it can afterwards also zoom onto a subatomic level (?) in an almost photorealistic way(PIC4). So, we automatically find similarities in it, the biggest projected into the most filigree structures.

A special version of a world projected into the body I found in 1656, in the time of the seafarers and discoverers (PIC5 – four anatomists look on a “body map”).  Here the body interior is depicted as one of those “new worlds”! Maybe still a holy land, but on its way to get completely conquered like the globe that is enthroned on top of the image.
It is the perception of the body as “territory”, that we can explore, develop and conquer, like Aldersey-Williams points out in his book “Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and the Stories They Tell”.[8]
In the news, we still get confronted with a lot of scientists that want to make a name for themselves.
And also today, where almost every particle of the body has its name, we still find this feeling of a new world in space ship journeys through the – by oneself – uncharted body (PIC6).



Cartography and Definitions – Hierarchy and Interaction

[9] [10] [11] [12] [13]

So, anatomy asserted itself as a science, and with definitions and theories there come generalisations and abstractions and of course misinterpretations.

Thus, it happens that the so called “first published book of anatomy” of 1491 gives concrete explanations of body parts, but also a drawing that brings together the parts with zodiac signs. But as a clear schematic it already has good qualities. (PIC1)

Vesalius, like Da Vinci one of the first practical explorers AND artists, tried to depict everything as exact and pure/natural as possible. (PIC2)

In the third illustration, of a book from around 1700, we already see organs, separated by clear different colours and with simplified shapes that show that they are to separate also in their medical function (PIC3).

With biology as a general common knowledge, and therewith also taught in schools, and the emergence of popular science, this style of “concentration on essentials” and more symbolic forms and colours gained more importance than realistic depictions in material and material colours. (PIC4)

Today’s schematics try to show and explain with simplified of basic forms (PIC5). But often depth and a certain surface is indicated to give the illusion of a real three-dimensional object. Like this it can be easier placed into the context, the body environment. And in education, where everything is kept even simpler, one illustration can already contain more graspable examples for abstract/chemical depictions (PIC5).


States, Cities

[14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

The cartography of the body and the characterising of all its parts and their functions also two-way interacted with complete social systems and orders. Seen as one of the most natural but complex things and especially as a God-given thing, the body interior had a high status, and therefore credibility.

State: In the separated organs and its functions people soon put in a series of different hierarchic orders and argued with it. They were perfect analogies for certain groups of peoples (PIC1 – the political hierarchy after Salisbury in the 13th century). For example, in the antiquity the stomach resembled the plebs[21], later the market[22].
Medieval anatomists, and especially the social thinker De Mondeville, even tried to integrate the Passion of Christ back into the body, when describing the anatomical discovery of the syncope: Organs show mercy for each other; when one is injured. They show mercy. This resembles a collective society. [23]  Like this the Passion of Christ and a surgical discovery were connected. Outstanding here, was the heart, as the centre of the body and as the centre of the blood (PIC2).
Thomas Hobbes instead put the emphasis on the head when he presented his social criticism around the leviathan, a huge body stuffed with thousands of little people all looking up to the head.(PIC3)

City: And as a space with a clear defined wall, a closed system, it was also the perfect metaphor for the town. PIC4 shows the city of Zamosc that was built after the body’s structure. The market resembles the stomach, the church the heart and the palace the head.[24]  – It was used to reason city layouts)
And when we look at a photograph of a microscopic cell (PIC5), we immediately think of a city in top view. It shows characteristics that are also repeated in the body, of which it is itself a part. Here the wall can be pointed out (PIC6): It is crucial for the definition of a cell and a city, and can be easily transferred to the human skin that separates and protects the body from its environment.
And also Fritz Kahn used this powerful analogy in his “Zellenstaat” (PIC7 – cell state).


[1] Johannes de Ketham (author), Fasciculus medicinae. 1491. Part of. Retrieved from […] full link in 6. Sources

[2] Frederic Ruysch, Thesaurus anatomicus primus, 1701, Plate of. Retrieved from http://www.biusante.parisdescartes.fr […] chapitre, full link in 6. Sources

[3] Fritz Kahn, Travel experiences of a wandering cell: in the valley of a flesh wound, 1924. Retrieved from

[4] Charles and Ray Eames (directors), Powers of Ten, 1977, 6:44. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0

[5] Giulio Casserio (anatomist), Anatomische Tafeln…, 1656, Frontpiece. Retrieved from

[6] The Body VR, The Body VR website, 2017. Retrieved from http://thebodyvr.com/

[7] Gerhard Faden, Platons dialektische Phänomenologie, 2005, 137

[8] Aldersey-Williams, Anatomies, 2013, 44-45

[9] See ^27

[10] Vesalius, fabrica, 1543, Plate of. Retrieved from

[11] Muhammed Arzani (author), Tibb al-Akbar (Akbar’s Medicine), 1722, Plate of. Retrieved from http://www.sitioandino.com.ar/n/93392/

[12] www.zcool.com.cn (artist), 3D icons Internal Organs vector, 2017. Retrieved from


[13] Paul Chesley. Indianer. 2010. In Horst Bayrhuber, Wolfgang Hauber und Ulrich Kull (publisher), Lindner Biologie. Lehrbuch für die Oberstufe, 2010, 159

[14] Johannes von Salisbury, Policratus (Oxford 1909), 13th century. In Sennett, Flesh and Stone, 211, Figure 1

[15] Bremond (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bremond ) (photographer), Christus offenbart Margareta Maria Alacoque (rechts) und Maria Droste zu Vischering sein Herz, 2008. Retrieved from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heiligstes_Herz_Jesu#/media/File:HerzJesu_mit_Droste_zu_Vischering_und_MMA.jpg

[16] Thomas Hobbes (author). The Leviathan of the matter, 1651. Retrieved from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolutismus#/media/File:Leviathan_by_Thomas_Hobbes.jpg

[17] Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Map Of Zamosc, ca. 1617. Retrieved from http://www.pbase.com/jolka/image/130444651

[18] N.a. (artist), Cell microscopy, N.d., N.s.

[19] Dr. Stephanie Swift, 13 February, 2013 (8:28), “Antibiotics hit your gut microbes hard”, Mmmbitesizescience Blog. 13 February, 2013, Figure 2, Antibiotics and gut microbes. Retrieved from

[20] Fritz Kahn (author), Georg Helbig (artist), Die Zelle, 1919, Figure 23, Kampf im Zellenstaat. Retrieved from

[21] Eva Kimminich, April 11, 2017, „Körpermetapher“, Universität Potsdam, Institut für Romanistik, Kulturen Romanischer Länder, 2017. Retrieved from

[22] Aldersey-Williams, Anatomies, 2013, 46

[23] Richard Sennett, Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilzation, trans. Linda Meissner (Berlin: Berlin Verlag, 1995), 200, 208 ff

[24] Aldersey-Williams, Anatomies, 2013, 46