An essay by

*BAD Award winner 2022

Kuang-Yi Ku
Henry de Vries | Dept. of Dermatology and Infectious Diseases at Amsterdam UMC/Sexual Health Centre GGD Amsterdam

Intertwining penises, tongues, mouths and anuses between which spiny viruses and swarming microbes move, drawn in bright black lines on clean white paper and animated in vibrant colours, but also executed in 3D as almost abstract sculptures. They are in one space with a long series of almost X-ray-like prints showing a spectrum of ever slightly different developed intersex genitalia. Together, they form the first two chapters of an important new inclusive anatomy lesson, or the world's first Atlas of Queer Anatomy. 

Artist Kuang-Yi Ku and Prof Dr Henry de Vries, who specializes in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pooled their knowledge and skills to challenge the medical patriarchy, heteronormativity and white Western dominance of anatomy education by constructing an ambiguous, uncertain, fluctuating anatomical system. With their Atlas of Queer Anatomy, they offer an ironic reflection on the globally still widely used classic anatomy textbook "Atlas of Human Anatomy" drawn by medical illustrator and surgeon Frank H. Netter that first appeared in 1957.

Medical anatomy á la Netter defines a clear body boundary. It suggests the power to determine what constitutes a clean, healthy and complete body. However, this hierarchy of medical anatomy leads to underrepresentation of marginalised groups. It causes not only cultural discrimination, but also serious problems in (access to) clinical treatment and public health. For instance, intersex has always been pathologized rather than considered as proof of the diversity of human anatomy.

Moreover, classical anatomy often completely ignores our extremely symbiotic dependence on the non-human. After all, where does our body end and the flora of bacteria living in, on and with our bodies begin? It's not a binary boundary. It is a spectrum, says De Vries.
But the artist and scientist do not decide on their own what the Atlas of Queer Anatomy will look like. Part of the project are participatory performances and workshops, they call "Queer Anatomy Lessons", in which they encourage young medics and creatives as well as wider audiences to draw and make queer anatomical collages themselves, which they then incorporate into the atlas and website. The aim of this comprehensive fictional anatomy textbook is to increase the inclusivity and diversity of anatomical interpretation in and outside the medical system.

With thanks to Tzu-Yen Chen/Onieyen Studio - Graphic and book design & video making | Te-Yen Hsu - 3D model fabrication | Shin Hua Yang - Textile fabrication | Hsing-Wen Lin/MCMarch - Spatial design