The body on public display…some ‘funny’ situations

The human body occupies the center stage in numerous contexts of our contemporary

modern/post-modern world (the correct classification is still intensely debated). But sometimes the “body as exhibit” category can take some ‘original’ forms, either reminiscent of past cultural traditions, or embedding contemporary messages and esthetics. Three of the ideas that do not cease to amaze (and/or amuse) me are:

1. 17th century jewelled skeletons
http://www.retronaut.com/2011/12/jewelled-skeletons-1600s/  

‘Taken from the catacombs of Rome in the 17th century, the relics of twelve martyred saints were then attired in the regalia of the period before being interred in a remote church on the German/Czech border.’

As a friend superbly described them, these “skeletons as relics”  were turned into something like rock-stars of the period, occupying the center stage (literally) in the church.

(thank you Theodor Emil Ulieriu-Rostás for the tip!)

A discussion found on a website, that allegedly took place in the Church of Sts Peter and Paul in the  Bavarian town of Rott-am-Inn where some of them are on display  goes like this:

““Who are they?” one of the visitors inquires. /“I’m not sure about one of them,” their local guide explains, “but the other is Constantine the Great.” / “Constantine? The Roman Emperor?” asks the visitor, now visibly puzzled. “It seems… well, very unlikely that his skele­ton would be in this church.” / “Well, this is what I’ve been told,” the guide sheepishly replies.” (http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/5560/bones_with_bling.html)

For a more extensive photographic archive on this form of Baroque piety , you can visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22147242@N02/galleries/72157628356794989/

2. Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon on display at the UCL

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/jeremy-bentham

I guess this is no news for anybody, but what made me include it here in particular was the appeal/marketing strategy that UCL used a couple of months ago: “Hi all – if you would like a bentham head email benthamheads@ucl.ac.uk” (and the link to this ad contains some…interesting photos with the effigy).

If this was not sufficient to catch your eye, on the site dedicated to this auto-icon you can read more about  “Jeremy Bentham with paper lantern head”  or “What Would Jeremy Do?“. I guess this totally puts the dark British humour in perspective.

3. “The jew in a box”, the controversial exhibition called by The Jewish Museum in Berlin as 

“Everything you always wanted to know about the Jews” (according to France 24 website)

http://www.france24.com/en/20130426-germany-jews-museums-art-culture-holocaust

This exhibition intends to present for the wider public the Jewish culture. For this purpose, one of the exhibits is represented by a member of the jewish community, who sits in a transparent box, talking and interacting with the visitors who are curious about finding more about this culture (more info can be found by accessing the video abut the project). I am not sure if the main issue at stake here is the one debated in a press article, if the box is a box or it is not quite a box (“Surprise: ‘Jew in a Box’ Is Not in a Box”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernard-starr/surprise-jew-in-a-box-is-not-in-a-box_b_3180072.html), rather it reminds me of “The Human Body” exhibition and the debates around it. However, the reason it was chosen for this list is the funny side of it (maybe the 4th side of the box which is missing from the picture? 🙂 ).

I hope that these 3 examples show how studying the human body on display can be anything but a boring topic. For those interested in the dead body on display, an extensive collection of images and information can be found at:  http://empiredelamort.com/

In the end, I guess that what all these are trying to say is that:

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