This Sunday, November 15th is going to be a big day in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. First up, at 6:00 PM, Observatory will be hosting an illustrated lecture entitled “Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius” by author Colin Dickey. Dickey will discuss "the history of skull thefts and the motivations of their perpetrators, as well as tracing the long and bizarre odysseys of several famous heads, including those of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Sir Thomas Browne." Copies of his book of the same name will be available for purchase and signing.
Next up--and stumbling distance away--The Secret Science Club will be hosting their 4th-annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest at the Bell House at 8 PM, where spectators will be able to cheer on Obscura Antiques and Oddities co-owner Mike Zohn as he defends his hard-won championship garnered back in 2007; click here for a full report on that contest. Entry fee is waived for contestants, so bring along, in the words of the call for entries, your "beloved moose head, stuffed albino squirrel, sinuous snake skeletons, jarred sea slugs, and other specimens" and save $4.
This leads me to my humble proposition to you for a Gowanus-centric Sunday: why not begin your day's festivities at Observatory and join us in a group pilgrimage to the Bell House in time for the Secret Science Club Taxidermy Contest? To have 2 such wonderful events back to back--both $5 or under, both book related, and both simultaneously of an educational and a spectacular nature, with both also including alcohol (!!) and, best of all, walking distance of one another--is a rare treat indeed. I also offer to personally lead the way from Observatory to Bell House, so no-one need fear becoming lost forever in the toxic wilds of the Gowanus.
Full details on both events follow:
Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
Date: Sunday, November 15th
Time: 6:00 PM, Doors at 5:00 PM
Address: Observatory: 543 Union Street (at Nevins), Brooklyn, NY 11215 (View Map)
By Colin Dickey, author of “Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius” (copies of the book will be available for sale)
With the rise of phrenology, the early 19th century saw a host of bizarre grave robberies, in which the graves of famous men were plundered for their owners’ skulls. Both scientific curiosities and morbid fetishes, the skulls became subject to extended legal battles between religious and secular authorities over who owns these remains, while phrenologists continued to study them for visible proof of genius. Colin Dickey will discuss the history of these skull thefts and the motivations of their perpetrators, as well as tracing the long and bizarre odysseys of several famous heads, including those of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Sir Thomas Browne, who had famously written what a “tragical abomination” it is to be “gnawed out of one’s grave,” some 150 years before his own skull was plundered in 1840. Copies of his book, “Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius,” will also be available for sale and signing.
Colin Dickey is the author of Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, and the co-editor (with Nicole Antebi and Robby Herbst) of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Cabinet, TriQuarterly, and The Santa Monica Review. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives in Los Angeles.
543 Union Street (at Nevins), Brooklyn, NY 11215
Enter Observatory via Proteus Gowanus Gallery
R or M train to Union Street in Brooklyn: Walk two long blocks on Union (towards the Gowanus Canal) to Nevins Street. 543 Union Street is the large red brick building on right. Go right on Nevins and left down alley through large black gates. Gallery is the second door on the left.
F or G train to Carroll Street: Walk one block to Union. Turn right, walk two long blocks on Union towards the Gowanus Canal, cross the bridge, take left on Nevins, go down the alley to the second door on the left.
The 4th-annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy ContestHope you can make it!
Hosted by the Secret Science Club @ the Bell House
Date: Sunday, November 15, 2009
Time: Doors open 7:30 pm, Taxidermy talk at 8 pm. Contest at 8:30 pm
Address: The Bell House: 149 7th Street, Brooklyn NY 11215 (View Map)
• Calling all science geeks, nature freaks, and other rogue geniuses! Enter your taxidermy to win!
• Show off your beloved moose head, stuffed albino squirrel, sinuous snake skeletons, jarred sea slugs, and other specimens. Compete for prizes and glory!
• The contest will be judged by our panel of savage taxidermy enthusiasts, including Robert Marbury, co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, and Dorian Devins, WFMU DJ and Secret Science Club co-curator
• Prizes for best stuffed creature, most interesting biological oddity, and more!
• Don’t miss the feral taxidermy talk by beast mistress Melissa Milgrom, author of the forthcoming book, Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
◦ Groove to taxidermy-inspired tunes and video
◦ Imbibe ferocious specialty drinks!
The contest is open to taxidermy (homemade, purchased, found), preserved and jarred specimens, skeletons, skulls, gaffs… and beyond. (Note: Wet specimens must remain in their jars.)
Entrants: Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to pre-register, and arrive at 7 pm on the night of the contest to log in your beast or specimen. Share your taxidermy (and its tale) with the world!
Spectators are invited to cheer their favorite specimens.
Where: The Bell House, 149 7th St. (between 2nd and 3rd avenues), Gowanus, Brooklyn. p: 718.643.6510 Subway: F to 4th Ave; R to 9th St; F or G to Smith/9th
When: Sunday 11/15/09. Doors and pre-show at 7:30 pm. Taxidermy talk at 8 pm. Contest at 8:30 pm!
Cover: $4 (waived for entrants)
Contest Background: The Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest is hosted by the Secret Science Club, an organization dedicated to exploring scientific discoveries and potent potables. The contest was started in 2005 by Secret Science Club co-curators Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson to shamelessly promote their taxidermy-inspired book Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger. The event has since taken on a life of its own, with first-year winners Andrew Templar and Jim Carden—co-owners of the Bell House—now providing a permanent home for this beastly annual smack-down.
To learn more, visit the Secret Science Club at http://secretscienceclub.blogspot.com
More info by clicking here.
More on Observatory here; directions to Observatory can be found by clicking here. More on The Secret Science club here. You can find out more about Obscura Antiques and Oddities by clicking here.
Box factory photo (which houses Observatory and the Morbid Anatomy Library) found here; Squirrel Photo: Taken by and shown in a slideshow presentation by Brian Wiprud, the author who wrote Stuffed, Pipsqueak, and Tailed, books about adventure.