Friday, January 29, 2010

Philadelphia Medical Film Symposium Recap

I am still processing the many pleasures and terrors that comprised last week's Medical Film Symposium. I left the symposium completely exhausted, dreaming of bloodily sliced corneas and feeling that I might never need to see another surgical or venereal disease film ever again. But, on the other hand, I was much excited and stimulated by many things I saw or learned and the many fascinating people I had the opportunity to meet.

Highlights of the symposium included (but were not limited to):
  • Friday night's experimental film fest in the oldest operating theatre in the U.S., which I liken to being immersed in a kaleidoscopic, phantasmagoric fun house of medical horrors (but in a good way! See above images 2-6).

  • Michael Sappol's meta-lecture on the ethically-fraught pleasures of filming, collecting and viewing medical films paired with a screening of terrible and beautiful silent films from the National Library of Medicine (stay tuned for the opportunity to see this lecture at Observatory in Brooklyn! Click here to get on the mailing list and thus be alerted).

  • Oliver Gayken's lecture on wonder and science in early popular science films.

  • Getting to spend an entire day in the Mütter Museum's elegant and wonderful event space!

  • Saturday night's "Medical Film Cabinet of Curiosities" curated by Skip Elsheimer & Jay Schwartz, which gave all of us shell-shocked attendees the opportunity to laugh again, and made me long for the permissive and Utopian 1970s with the screening of the charmingly and innocently explicit school health film entitled "Achieving Sexual Maturity(1973)--completely unthinkable in today's social climate, with its nudity and celebration of youth sensuality, including on screen erections and masturbation--followed by a surrealistically charming school film demystifying a visit to the school nurse called "Just Awful" (1972).

  • The opportunity to take in the really wonderful Jan van Riemsdyk (aka van Rymsdyk) pastel exhibition outside the old operating theatre, which I highly recommend you check out if you are able before it closes in December 2010 (see bottom 2 photos; more on that here).

  • The grilled grapefruit at Reading Terminal's Down Home Diner!
All in all, although emotionally draining and a tad exhausting, the 2010 Medical Film Symposium was a wonderful experience, well organized and programmed, and I hope that the conference organizers have plans for a sequel in the near future.

You can find out more on the symposium by clicking here and here. You can find out about the Jan van Riemsdyk by clicking here.

Very special thanks to official symposium photographer Michelle Enemark (Observatory cohort and Curious Expeditions co-author and photographer) for the use of most of the above photos, and to conference organizers Dwight Swanson and Joanna Poses, for putting together such an inspired weekend and for giving me role of "official blogger."

No comments: