Man as Industrial Palace: Famous 1926 Lithograph Brought to Life

In 1926, Fritz Kahn, a Ger­man gyne­col­o­gist and anato­my text­book author, pro­duced a lith­o­graph called Der Men­sch als Indus­triepalast (Man as Indus­tri­al Palace) that depict­ed the human body as a fac­to­ry (see here), a chem­i­cal plant of sorts. Kah­n’s body came com­plete with mechan­i­cal lungs, a rock-sort­ing stom­ach, gears for a throat, and a switch­board for a brain, and it illus­trat­ed rather metaphor­i­cal­ly the degree to which indus­tri­al­iza­tion had tak­en over West­ern life, cre­at­ing deep anx­i­ety for some and curios­i­ty for oth­ers.

More than eighty years lat­er, Hen­ning Led­er­er, a Ger­man artist, has brought Kah­n’s mechan­i­cal body to life with some gift­ed ani­ma­tion. This dynam­ic ver­sion is cur­rent­ly on dis­play at the Philadel­phia Muse­um of Art as part of the “Health for Sale” exhi­bi­tion. To learn more about Led­er­er’s project, you will want to spend more time on and par­tic­u­lar­ly with this help­ful PDF. Oth­er ani­ma­tion by Led­er­er appears on Vimeo. Many thanks to Elliot for send­ing this along.

Don’t miss our new col­lec­tion of 235 Cul­tur­al Icons, which presents footage of great musi­cians, writ­ers, film­mak­ers and thinkers.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.