ita / eng

Is dying natural?

The question sounds absurd, on a par with asking whether sleeping, eating, drinking or thinking are natural. All the necessary facts of life have the property of simply being what they are. Thoughts around death are always aimed at finding a way to accept it, to live having an awareness of an end or wondering what is next but never do we find ourselves wondering, outside of a very abstract plane, whether it is right or wrong. Never has there been a choice to die or not to die.

Cryonics is the practice of lowering the body temperature of a person (declared legally dead) to that of liquid nitrogen. Decomposition at that point stops and it is possible to preserve bodies indefinitely while keeping their tissues intact. The idea that people who undergo this practice are placing their bets on is that it will be possible to be brought back to life in the future. In addition to this, other predictions are mixed in: that of living in a world in which it will be possible to restore the body to a youthful, healthy condition through advanced scientific procedures, and the possibility of curing diseases now considered incurable. The sum of these technologies would lead to de facto immortality. No specific reason has yet been identified as to why cryonics should not work in the future while, on the contrary, there are several experiments that come close: whole insects, vinegar eels, many types of human tissue, including brain tissue, human embryos that are subsequently grown into healthy babies, and some small mammalian organs have been cryopreserved and then reanimated. By paying a one-off amount or a monthly fee, it is possible to enroll in one of the cryonics services around the world. There are currently operating ones in Arizona, Michigan, Valencia, Russia and Zurich, but they are coming up in other places such as Dubai and New York. The number of people currently frozen and awaiting revival is in the hundreds. Consciously or unconsciously, all of these people are adhering to a worldview that can be called “transhumanism,” a movement that aims to use science to re-engineer the human condition so as to avoid suffering. The question raised at the beginning of the text may suddenly become relevant. We went to photograph one of the most recently established cryonics company to observe the possible future of humanity.

Their work starts with the bio-ambulance. As soon as the patient is declared legally dead, the cryopreservation process begins. The patient is immersed in a mixture of water and ice and given a series of pharmaceuticals that protect tissues and cells. Through a heart-lung machine, the process of tissue oxygenation, cryoprotectant perfusion and cooling to a temperature of -76° is started. Next, the patient is transported to a long-term storage facility where he will be further cooled down to liquid nitrogen temperature (-196°). At this point he is placed in the “Cryogenic Storage Dewar,” a device that allows his internal temperature to remain regulated where the patient will remain until the technology allows restoration of life. Some facilities also accept “neurological” patients, who want to preserve only their brains, hoping that it will be possible to retrieve all the information contained within and transfer it to a computer or another body.

The work was shot between June and October in Berlin and Rafz.