In what could be described as the ultimate memento mori – a genre of art that reminds us of our own mortality – Dutch sculpture Caspar Berger has reproduced an exact copy of his own skeleton. He underwent a CT scan, which provided detailed anatomical data, which was then output on a 3D printer.
Using the latest CT scanner at Toshiba Medical Systems Europe, which can produce cross-sections of the body just half a millimeter thick, he was able to digitally separate his bones from the rest of his body. Armed with the resulting images, he then used a 3D printer to create life-sized copies of his bones, made from a translucent resin. Those 3D-printed bones were subsequently used as the basis for bronze, silver, gold, and plaster castings.
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"The last self-portrait I made centered on skin, the essential boundary between the external (appearance) and internal (inner self) as a personal or cultural membrane," Berger writes on his website. "I have now turned to what supports the body: the skeleton. I see the skeleton as the basis of the physical body, but also as the carrier of our ‘eternal identity’, which long after we are gone continues to reveal who we were."
In an impressive demonstration of just how well the naked skeleton preserves our outward appearance, he sent his skull to a forensic anthropologist. Using expert knowledge of human anatomy, the anthropologist layered clay muscle, tissue, and skin in a process called facial reconstruction. The only information provided in advance was that the skull belonged to a man born in Western Europe who was in his mid-40s. The finished sculpture, titled Self-portrait 21, is described as a self-portrait not made by the artist himself.
The facial reconstruction process layers clay muscle, tissue, and skin over the skull using expert knowledge of anatomy
Reproducing body parts via 3D printing is not new, given that medical applications of the technology preceded artistic endeavors like this one by many years. However, it was ripe for adaptation by Berger, who is known for his unique self-portraits. You can view photographs of his other works at the virtual gallery on his website, and see the skeleton-building process in action in the video below.