Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lennon Sisters singing Dry Bones, The Lawrence Welk Show, 1965

Thanks so much to Salvador Olguin for drawing this wonderful video to my attention! I simply cannot stop watching it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Naming the Animals Exhibition Opening, Curious Matter, Jersey City, Sunday April 3

I have a photograph--sneak preview above--included in the upcoming Naming the Animals exhibition at Curious Matter gallery in Jersey City, New Jersey. The opening--which us free and open to the public--will take place this Sunday, April 3rd, from 3-6.

Full details follow for both this opening at the related opening later in the month at Proteus Gowanus. Hope very much to see you there!
Please join us for two artist receptions to celebrate our special two-part exhibition

Curious Matter, April 3 to May 15, 2011
Proteus Gowanus, April 16 to July 17, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011
3:00 to 6:00 pm
272 Fifth Street, Jersey City, NJ
Saturday, April 16, 2011
7:00 to 10:00 pm
& Naming the Animals
543 Union Street, Brooklyn, NJ


CURIOUS MATTER: Lasse Antonsen • Julia Whitney Barnes • Jill Marleah Bell • John Bell • Arthur Bruso • Travis Childers • Matthew Cox • Joanna Ebenstein • Veronica Frenning • Patti Jordan • Heather Layton • Ross Bennett Lewis • Carrie Lincourt • Eric Lindveit • Colette Male • Marianne McCarthy • Florence Alfano McEwin • Hans van Meeuwen • Raymond E. Mingst • Elizabeth Misitano • R. Wayne Parsons • Inna Razumova • Debra Regh • Andrew Cornell Robinson

PROTEUS GOWANUS: Kristi Arnold • William Brovelli • Christian Brown • Ryan Browning • Travis Childers • Clair Chinnery • Eileen Ferara • Richard Haymes • Ellie Irons • Katherine McLeod • Suzanne Norris • Melissa Stern • Jennie Suddick • Tricia Zimic

CURIOUS MATTER is an exhibition venue for contemporary visual art located in downtown Jersey City. Curious Matter exhibitions and publications evidence the pursuit to understand and articulate our individual and collective experience of the world, real or imagined. We examine fantastic notions, confounding ideas and audacious thoughts. Curious Matter strives to foster dialogue among artists at all career stages with a calendar of regular exhibitions. Our commitment extends to our audience as we endeavor to open a door to appreciating contemporary art in an atmosphere that encourages engagement and curiosity. Curious Matter is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.
For more info: [w] [e] [t] 201-659-5771

DRIVING FROM MANHATTAN: Take the Holland Tunnel. When you exit the tunnel turn left onto Marin Blvd. Turn right onto 6th Street, then left onto Coles Street and left onto Fifth. Street. (It’s about 5 minutes out of the Tunnel.)

PATH FROM NYC: Take the Newark/Journal Square bound PATH train from 33rd, 23rd, 14th or 9th Streets (all at 6th Ave.) or from Christopher Street or WTC. (Note: on weekends the train stops in Hoboken before continuing to Jersey City.) Get off at

GROVE STREET station. Exit and walk West on Newark Ave. When you reach Jersey Ave. make a right and continue to 5th Street. The gallery is to the left at 272 Fifth Street.

PROTEUS GOWANUS is a gallery and reading room located on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY. A collaborative project, the gallery develops exhibits of art, artifacts and books and hosts events that revolve around a yearlong theme linking the arts to other disciplines and to the community. In adjacent spaces, seven additional projects-in-residence have grown out of thematic exhibitions and partnerships. This year’s theme is PARADISE, an exploration of the light and dark sides of spiritual ascent and sensual escape, in which we invite artists and workers in other disciplines to respond to the siren song of that which is easy to imagine but
difficult to attain.
For more info: [w] [e] [t] 718-243-1572

DRIVING FROM MANHATTAN: (There is usually easy parking on weekends.) Continue straight off Brooklyn Bridge to Atlantic Avenue, take left on Atlantic. Go four blocks to Nevins St and take a right. Follow Nevins several blocks til you come to Sackett. Park on the next block (just before Union) and go down the alley off Nevins through the large black gates, second door on the left.

SUBWAY, 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.
To see much more of the work in the exhibition, you can download a digital version of their beautifully designed catalog--the hard copy of which will eventually be available for sale on Lulu--by clicking here.

Image: Joanna Ebenstein, Natural History Museum Storage Area, 2010

Anatomical Obscura Day Events, 2011

As many of you already know, my upcoming exhibition--The Great Coney Island Spectacularium--will be launching with an Obscura Day event on Saturday April 9th (more on that here.) If you are not in New York for Obscura Day, or are in the mood for more anatomical fare, I have just been alerted to a bunch of anatomical-themed events that might be up your alley. All events take place on Saturday, April 9th.

Details follow:
  • At the Dittrick Museum where Jim, the Dittrick's Chief Curator, will present a selection of amazing and rare anatomy atlases and surgical works, and Jenny, the Registrar and Archivist, will share a sampling of strange and wonderful objects from the Dittrick artifact collections, with special emphasis upon the history of contraception, a premier collection at the Dittrick. (

  • At the International Museum of Surgical Science, in Chicago the Museum’s curator will present 3D stereoscopic photos, chromolithographs, and a magic lantern show depicting skin diseases in gorgeous, gruesome detail. Visitors can take a look at what lies beneath the surface of the skin in a special exhibition of actual human bodies. (

  • In Florence, Itlay take an expert tour of La Specola Anatomical Collection. Art and social-historian Sheila Barker, who researches science and medicine in Renaissance Florence, will lead the visit of some of the most spectacular and beautiful anatomical artwork in the world. (

  • In Sydney, Australia go to the Museum of Human Disease, where on Obscura Day you can ask questions of academics and researchers from the University, and participate in discussions and workshops and hear the stories of patients, medical professionals, and loved ones of those with disease." (
To find out more about these events, and to purchase tickets, click the link following each description.

Image: "Anatomical Venus" Wax wodel with human hair and pearls in rosewood and Venetian glass case, "La Specola" (Museo di Storia Naturale), Florence, Italy " Probably modeled by Clemente Susini (around 1790); From The Secret Museum exhibition.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Congress for and of Curious Peoples 2011, The Coney Island Museum, April 8-17

The Morbid Anatomy Library is so very excited to announce the lineup for this year's Congress for Curious Peoples at The Coney Island Museum. For those of you who don't remember from last year, the Congress for Curious Peoples is a 2-day symposium about curiosity and curiosities broadly conceived; it is organized by The Morbid Anatomy Library and The Coney Island Museum and takes place over the weekend of April 16th and 17th at The Coney Island Museum, marking the final weekend of the 10-day Congress of Curious Peoples (more on that in a moment).

This year's Congress for Curious Peoples symposium was inspired by the themes of the The Great Coney Island Spectacularium, the installation I have been working on as Artist in Resident of The Coney Island Museum and within which the Congress will take place. Topics explored in the symposium will include Immersive Amusements, Human Anatomy on Display, and Science and Technology for Public Amusement and will feature many of my favorite scholars, artists, collectors and bon vivants, including (and this is just a brief sampling) Mark Dion, Norman Klein, Mark Dery, Mike Sappol, Lord Whimsy, Evan Michelson, Mike Zohn, and Laurel Braitman. There will also be a scheduled break to visit the Super Freak Weekend Freakshow that will be running continuously throughout the weekend downstairs in Coney Island USA.

Full schedule for the Congress for Curious Peoples follows. This event is sure to sell out, so I highly recommend getting your tickets as soon as possible!

The Congress for Curious Peoples
Saturday and Sunday, April 16th and 17th
The Coney Island Museum
1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn

Saturday April 16th

10:00 - 11:00 Keynote Speaker
Norman Klein, author of "The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects"

11:30 - 1:30 "The New Curiosity": Scholarship as Artistic Medium
Mark Dion, Artist
Joanna Ebenstein, The Morbid Anatomy Library
Wendy Walker, author of "The Secret Service"
Moderated and introduced by Aaron Beebe, The Coney Island Museum

1:30 - 3:30: Lunch and Sideshow Visit

3:30 - 5:30: Immersive Amusements/ Scripted Spaces

Elizabeth Bradley, author of "Knickerbocker: The Myth behind New York"
Mark Dery, author "The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink"
Amy Herzog, author of "Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film"
Moderated and Introduced by Alison Griffiths, author of "Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive View"

Sunday April 17th

10:00 - 12:00: The Fairground and The Museum: Human Anatomy on Display
Lisa Farrington, author of "Creating Their Own image: the History of African-American Women Artists"
Anna Maerker, author of "Model Experts: Wax Anatomies and Enlightenment in Florence and Vienna, 1775-1815"
Mike Sappol, author of "A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America"
Elizabeth Stephens, "Anatomy as Spectacle: Public Exhibitions of the Body from 1700 to the Present"
Moderated and introduced by John Troyer, author of "Technologies of the Human Corpse" (Forthcoming)

12:00 - 1:00: Lunch

1:00 - 3:00: The 19th Century Dime Museum in the Contemporary Imagination

Will Baker, author of "Multiple Meanings and Values in Johnny Fox's Freakatorium"
Aaron Beebe, The Coney Island Museum
D. B. Denholtz, editor of "Shocked and Amazed: On & Off the Midway"
Evan Michelson, Obscura Antiques and star of TV's "Oddities"
Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and star of TV's "Oddities"
Moderated and introduced by Andrea Dennett, author of "Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America"

3:30 - 5:30: Science and Technology for Public Amusement

Laurel Braitman, author of "Animal Madness" (forthcoming)
Fred Nadis, author of "Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America"
Simon Werrett, author of "Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History"
Moderated by Lord Whimsy/Allen Crawford, author of "The Affected Provincial's Companion, Volume One"

Tickets for the weekend are $25 and can be purchased by clicking here. You can also purchase a 10-day Congressional Passes which gets one into all of the events comprising both the Congress of Curious Peoples and the 10-day Congress for Curious Peoples, including those that are already sold out; click here to purchase one of those, $75 in advance, $100 at the door.

To give you a sense of what this "Congressional Pass" would entitle you to, following is the full schedule for the 10 day Congress of Curious Peoples, of which the Congress for is but a the final part. Confused? I know. Sorry! There's simply no getting around it; that's just the kind of beast this series of events is.

Congress of Curious Peoples Schedule
Coney Island USA
1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn

Friday, April 8

Saturday, April 9

  • Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Tickets at the door)
  • Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar (Curiosity vendors)
  • Party for the 2011 Season Premiere of Oddities on the Science Channel TICKETS/DETAILS (Sold Out!)

Sunday, April 10

  • Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Tickets at the door)
  • Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar (Curiosity vendors)

Monday April 11th

Tuesday April 12th

Wednesday April 13th

  • 7:30: Judson Rosebush, "Burlesque: Exotic Dancers of the 1950's and 60's" TICKETS/DETAILS
  • 8:30: Bambi and Bambi: Classic Burley-q meets the New Burlesque TICKETS/DETAILS

Thursday April 14th

  • 7:30: Amy Herzog, “Primal Scenes: Sigmund Freud, Coney Island, and the Staging of Domestic Trauma” TICKETS/DETAILS
  • 8:30: Rudy MacAggi, finalist on America’s Got Talent 2010 TICKETS/DETAILS

Friday April 15th

Saturday April 16th

  • Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Tickets at the door)
  • Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar (Curiosity vendors)
  • Congress For Curious People Day 1
Sunday April 17th
  • Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Tickets at the door)
  • Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar (Curiosity vendors)
  • Congress For Curious People Day 2
As you can see, this is going to be a seriously epic series of events! Very, very much hope to see you at one, many, or all of them!

To find out more about The Spectacularium and The Congress(es), click here.

Special thanks to the Andy Warhol Foundation, whose generosity helped to fund all of these fantastic events.

Also, the lovely poster was designed by Lord Whimsy; click on image to see larger more readable version.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Blood Work: Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution," Illustrated Lecture and Book Signing with Holly Tucker, Tomorrow Night at Observatory!

Tomorrow night at Observatory! Very much hope to see you there.
Blood Work: Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution
Lecture and Book Signing with Professor and Author Holly Tucker
Date: Tuesday, March 22
Time: 8 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

In 1667 physician Jean-Baptiste Denis transfused calf’s blood into the body of Antoine Mauroy, an infamous madman known to tear through the streets of Paris naked and screaming. With this, Denis--a brash physician with a taste for the limelight--enraged both the elite doctors who wanted to perform the first animal-to-human blood transfusion themselves and powerful conservatives who believed he was toying with forces of nature that he didn’t understand. It only got worse when just days after the experiment, Mauroy was dead, and Denis was framed for murder. A trial ensued and Denis became a kind of 17th century Dr. Kevorkian, a stubborn man of science who held the public spellbound and reveled in controversy.

Animal-to-human transfusion was then on the cutting-edge of medicine. In an era in which superstition sparred with science, transfusion was also a flashpoint for controversy. Conservative camps in Catholic France, including King Louis XIV’s Academy of Sciences, railed against transfusion and predicted that before long animal-human hybrids would walk among us. Ambitious scientists fumed at being held back by retrograde forces who would choke the progress of science. A confused public feared that they would be crushed by cosmic backlash or social upheaval.

Join us tonight as Dr. Tucker tells us this fascinating story of a notorious madman, a renegade physician, a murder that remained unsolved for over three centuries, and the true story one of the world’s first blood transfusions in 17th century France as detailed in her new book, Blood Work: Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution (W.W. Norton, March 2011).

Copies of Blood Work will be also available for sale and signing.

Holly Tucker is an associate professor at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health & Society and the Department of French & Italian. Her research focuses on the history of medicine. She writes for publications including the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, New Scientist, and Christian Science Monitor. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. You can find out more at her website, and her blog

You can find out more about the book by clicking here, and more about this event on the Observatory website by clicking here; you can access this event on Facebook here. You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Play Dead," Todd Robbins and Teller, The Players Theatre, New York

The other night, I took my boyfriend out for a night of good, scary, compelling fun at Todd Robbins' and Teller's (of Penn and Teller) new production "Play Dead," on view now at The Players Theatre in New York City.

The production is difficult to describe in normal theater terms; it is kind of like a haunted house meets a 1950s ghost show meets a piss take on a Victorian séance meets a high-end Vegas magic show all staged on a David Lynch film set. The main presence in the production is side-show performer Todd Robbins; he has a wonderfully compelling presence, equal parts passionate story teller, confidence man, and emphatic and empathetic debunker of spiritualist trickery. The piece is a kind of fun yet thoughtful meditation on the mysteries of death, the history of historical monsters in their various forms, and the ways--compellingly demonstrated in the show--that death and loss still make us easy prey for "spiritualist" hucksters.

I don't want to say too much more, as so much of the fun of the production come from the element of surprise, but I will say this: I was seriously amazed; I was amused; and we are still talking about it. I very much recommend checking it out.

"Play Dead" is being staged at The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, New York. You can find out more--and get tickets--by clicking here.

Full disclosure: I received free tickets from the Play Dead Production Company in exchange for reviewing this show. Lucky for me I really really enjoyed it! And so did my impartial boyfriend.

Image: From the Studio 360 website.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe" Exhibition, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Through May 15th

Wow. WOW.

This just in: On view until May 15th of this year at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, a new exhibition of relics and reliquaries entitled "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe."

To get a sense of the kinds of treasures that await, check out the Treasures of Heaven "Digital Monograph" (from which these images were drawn) by clicking here.

Press release for the exhibition follows:
Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe
Feb. 13, 2011 - May 15th, 2011
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

First major U.S. exhibition of Christian relics and reliquaries co-organized by the Walters, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the British Museum

Baltimore—The Walters Art Museum will host an exhibition offering visitors a glimpse into the Middle Ages, a time when art mediated between heaven and earth and wondrous objects of gold, silver and precious gems filled churches and monastic treasuries. Relics, the physical remains of holy people and objects associated with these individuals, play a central role in a number of religions and cultures and were especially important to the development of Christianity as it emerged in the Late Roman world as a powerful new religion. On view at the Walters Feb. 13–May 15, 2011, Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe is the first exhibition in the United States to focus on the history of relics and reliquaries—the special containers to display the holy remains of Christian saints and martyrs. The exhibition is organized by the Walters Art Museum in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art and the British Museum.

Reliquaries proclaimed the special status of their sacred contents to worshipers and pilgrims, and for this reason, were often objects of artistic innovation, expressions of civic and religious identity, and focal points of ritual action. This exhibition will feature 133 metalworks, sculptures, paintings and illuminated manuscripts from Late Antiquity through the Reformation and beyond. It will explore the emergence and transformation of several key types of reliquary, moving from an age in which saintly remains were enshrined within closed containers to an era in which relics were increasingly presented directly to worshipers.

Many of the reliquaries in the exhibition have never before been seen outside of their home countries. Objects are drawn from celebrated public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, and also from important church treasuries. In addition to the three organizing museums, world-renowned institutions, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art, are lending works to the exhibition. Nine works are traveling from the Vatican collections, including three reliquaries that were once housed in the Sancta Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies, the private relic chapel of the Pope.

Visitors will witness the transformation of reliquaries from simple containers for the earthly remains of Christian holy men and women to lavishly decorated objects of personal and communal devotion.

"As early as the second century AD, the relics of Christian saints—including their bones, ashes and other bodily remains—were thought to be more valuable than the most precious gemstones. They were believed to be a conduit for the power of the saints and to provide a direct link between the living faithful and God," said Martina Bagnoli, Robert and Nancy Hall associate curator of medieval art and exhibition co-curator. "These remains were treated with reverence and often enshrined in containers that used luxurious and precious materials to proclaim the relics' importance."

The medieval devotion to relics gave birth to new forms of architecture and prompted significant developments in the visual arts. The reliquaries showcased in Treasures of Heaven provide evidence of religious objects traveling across tremendous distances and of people making pilgrimages across the Mediterranean to walk in the footsteps of important figures from sacred history. Powerful in inspiring religious devotion among believers, reliquaries became cutting-edge works of art that combined innovative techniques with beautiful design.

"Those who come to the exhibition thinking that the Middle Ages are only a period of darkness will be surprised," said Martina Bagnoli.

Highlights of Treasures of Heaven include:
  • Reliquary Bust of St. Baudime, c. 1180-1200,Parish Church of Saint-Nectaire, Puy-le-Dôme
  • This nearly life-sized bust is one of the earliest surviving objects of its kind and travels outside of France for the first time.
  • Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude, c. 1045, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • This work is from the Guelph Treasure, one of the most important church treasuries to have survived from medieval Germany.
  • Head Reliquary of St. Eustace, c. 1200, British Museum
  • This head-shaped reliquary contained fragments of the skull of the Roman military leader Saint Eustace...
You can find out more about the exhibition here, and more about the topic of relics and reliquaries on the Treasures of Heaven "Digital Monograph" by clicking here. You can purchase the exhibition catalog by clicking here.

All images from the Treasures of Heaven "Digital Monograph;" you can find out more about them the images, and peruse the website, by clicking here. It was unclear how many of these are in the physical exhibition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Freaks and Monsters and Fairies, Devils, and Fantasy Tour of Florence," Fall, 2011, Dr. Kathryn Hoffman

Friend of Morbid Anatomy Kathryn Hoffmann of the University of Hawaii, Manoa has just announced that she will be leading a "Freaks, Monsters, and Fairies, Devils, and Fantasy" tour of Florence, Italy this upcoming fall semester. The tour will take in, in Hoffman's own words, "wax anatomical models of course, as well as the devils of Florence, reliquaries, the history of court and fairground stars with corporeal anomalies, and the original dark version of Pinocchio, where he came to a sad end in Book 5. I'm going to teach and take students out of the classroom and into the museums and churches."

Applications are due on April 1; for more information, email professor Hoffman at hoffmann [at]

So wish I could make it!

Please click on the image to see a much larger version.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Proteus" Screening with Film Maker David Lebrun, Observatory, April 1st

This April Fools Day, why not join Morbid Anatomy and Observatory for a screening of one of our absolute favorite films, Proteus, featuring an introduction by--and Q and A with--the film's maker, David Lebrun, in a rare East Coast appearance?

The film Proteus details the biography and struggles of biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) who, as the copy for the film describes, "found himself torn between seeming irreconcilables: science and art, materialism and religion, rationality and passion, outer and inner worlds." Lebrun tells Haeckel's tale with inventive and almost chillingly beautiful animation constructed almost entirely from 19th Century archival images, with the most stirring and awe-inspiring sequences created from quick successions of scores of Haeckel's astonishing depictions of protista, as seen above in some of his drawings, and in the video clip at about 5:10 minutes in.

We are thrilled to be hosting two screenings of the film, one at 7 PM and one at 9 PM, in conjunction with Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery and Reading Room. Film maker David Lebrun will be on hand at each to introduce the film and to answer any questions you might have.

Please pass this on to any interested parties, and hope very very much to see you there!
Date: Friday, April 1
Time: 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM (2 Screenings)
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy in partnership with Proteus Gowanus

The ocean is a wilderness reaching 'round the globe, wilder than
a Bengal jungle, and fuller of monsters, washing the very wharves
of our cities and the gardens of our sea-side residences.

-- Henry David Thoreau, 1864

For the nineteenth century, the world beneath the sea played much the same role that "outer space" played for the twentieth. The ocean depths were at once the ultimate scientific frontier and what Coleridge called "the reservoir of the soul": the place of the unconscious, of imagination and the fantastic. Proteus uses the undersea world as the locus for a meditation on the troubled intersection of scientific and artistic vision. The one-hour film is based almost entirely on the images of nineteenth century painters, graphic artists, photographers and scientific illustrators, photographed from rare materials in European and American collections and brought to life through innovative animation.

The central figure of the film is biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). As a young man, Haeckel found himself torn between seeming irreconcilables: science and art, materialism and religion, rationality and passion, outer and inner worlds. Through his discoveries beneath the sea, Haeckel would eventually reconcile these dualities, bringing science and art together in a unitary, almost mystical vision. His work would profoundly influence not only biology but also movements, thinkers and authors as disparate as Art Nouveau and Surrealism, Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence, Vladimir Lenin and Thomas Edison.

422px-haeckel_stephoidea_edit1The key to Haeckel's vision was a tiny undersea organism called the radiolarian. Haeckel discovered, described, classified and painted four thousand species of these one-celled creatures. They are among the earliest forms of life. In their intricate geometric skeletons, Haeckel saw all the future possibilities of organic and created form. Proteus explores their metamorphoses and celebrates their stunning beauty and seemingly infinite variety in animation sequences based on Haeckel's graphic work.

Around Haeckel's story, Proteus weaves a tapestry of poetry and myth, biology and oceanography, scientific history and spiritual biography. The legend of Faust and the alchemical journey of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner are part of the story, together with the laying of the transatlantic telegraphic cable and the epic oceanographic voyage of HMS Challenger. All these threads lead us back to Haeckel and the radiolaria. Ultimately the film is a parable of both the difficulty and the possibility of unitary vision.

DAVID LEBRUN has served as producer, director, writer, cinematographer, animator and/or editor of more than sixty films, among them films on the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca, a 1960s traveling commune, Tibetan mythology and a year in the life of a Maya village. He edited the Academy-award winning documentary Broken Rainbow, on the Hopi and Navajo of the American Southwest. Proteus premiered at Sundance and has won numerous international awards. The two-hour documentary feature Breaking the Maya Code (2008) tells the story of the 200-year quest to decipher the hieroglyphic script of the ancient Maya of central America; a drastically shortened version was broadcast on the PBS series NOVA and has been seen on television around the world. His experimental and animated works include the animated films Tanka (1976) and Metamorphosis (2010), works for multiple and variable-speed projectors such as Wind Over Water (1983), and a 2007 multimedia performance piece, Maya Variations, created in collaboration with composer Yuval Ron. Lebrun has taught film production and editing at the California Institute of the Arts and has curated numerous art exhibitions. He was president of First Light Video Publishing from 1987-1996, and since then president of Night Fire Films. He was a founding Board Member of the Center for Visual Music (CVM) and is on the Advisory Board of the Chabot Space & Science Center’s Maya Skies project. For a complete biography and filmography, please visit
You can find out more about the film by clicking here, and more about this event on the Observatory website by clicking here; you can access these events on Facebook here (7 PM) and here (9 PM). You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.

Images: From Ernst Haeckel's Die Radiolarien, Berlin, 1862. And special thanks to Ben Cerveny for turning me onto this wonderful film so many years ago.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Coney Island Spectacularium and 'Oddities' Screening," Coney Island Museum, April 9th, Obscura Day 2011

As part of that noble effort which is Obscura Day, why not come down to Coney Island, take in Morbid Anatomy's brand new exhibition "The Great Coney Island Spectacularium" (which opens the day before), check out Super Freak Weekend, and celebrate the premiere of season two of "Oddities" with free Hendricks Gin cocktails, episode viewing, and general revelry assorted cast members?

Why not indeed!

Full details follow; really hope to see you there!
Title: Coney Island Spectacularium and "Oddites" Screening
Date: Saturday, April 9

Time: 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Cost: $15.00

Where: The Coney Island Museum, Surf Avenue, Brooklyn
Click here to purchase tickets

Party in the Coney Island Museum to celebrate the opening of the Coney Island Spectacularium, super freak weekend, and meet the stars of the Discovery Channel show Oddities at the premiere of season two.

At the end of the 19th Century, Coney Island was the pinnacle of an astonishing era of live attractions – the Great Coney Island Spectacularium aims to recreate that momentous age, bringing you sites, sounds, and immersive experiences that can’t be seen anywhere else on earth. The attendees of this event will be the first to experience this taste of Coney Island at the height of its spectacle with the opening of the Coney Island Spectacularium.

But that is only one part of this multi-faceted event! Also taking place is a sideshow performance by some of the countries best sideshow performers gathered in Coney for the annual super freak weekend.

Topping it all off is the premiere of season two of the Discovery Channel show Oddities, with its stars Mike and Evan in attendance! Free Hendrick's Gin cocktails will be served upstairs, and there will be a cash bar (wine and beer) available downstairs.

Details/Special Instructions:
Doors open at 8:00, screening of the season premiere at 8:30.
Tickets are $15.

It’s also day two of the Congress of Curious Peoples, Coney Island USA’s 10-day series of lectures and performances about curiosity and curiosities, broadly conceived, so be sure to check out the schedule for the rest of the week..
Obscura Day is an international celebration of unusual places, happening all over the world on April 9, 2011.

Visit to see all of our 2011 events.
To by tickets, click here. For more about the Great Coney Island Spectacularium, click here. For more about "Oddities," click here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pompeii in Times Square: “Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius,” Discovery Times Square, New York City

"Experience Pompeii before and after the epic eruption 2,000 years ago. Imagine the moment their world vanished and discover the miraculous artifacts unearthed since. Witness the life and death of those frozen in time by ash - including the largest collection of body casts ever presented.
  • Over 250 artifacts – includes some never-before-seen objects and the largest collection of body casts ever on display including a dramatic skeleton collection
  • A brand-new, immersive movie experience depicting a timelapsed representation starting from the moment of Vesuvius’ massive explosion"
--From the “Pompeii the Exhibit" Website

More than a museum, Discovery Times Square is New York’s destination for discovery through unique and immersive exhibits
--Website for Discovery Times Square

"There is a lot of traffic these days in well-preserved bodies, human and otherwise. They are sliced and pickled for artistic effect or uncannily dissected and plasticized, with every blood vessel visible. They have toured the world, wrapped and mummified in the manner of ancient Egypt, or have been displayed, more modestly preserved by the dry desert sands of the Silk Road. And there are many, many more mummies yet to come.

Why this onslaught of the almost-living dead in museums? Are we latter-day Ezekiels seeking prophetic messages from ancient skeletal remnants? Has the technology used to prepare the dead for world travel suddenly advanced? Or has the need for income by the overseers of mummies suddenly increased?"

From "When the Dead Arise and Head to Times Square," Edward Rothstein, the New York Times
“Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius”--a new exhibition at Discovery Times Square--activates the same tension between spectacle and education, prurience and propriety, which was exploited to such great financial reward by Gunther von Hangens in Body Worlds and which characterized many 19th Century popular amusements such as tourist visits to the Paris Morgue, popular anatomical museums, and the scores of death- and destruction-themed spectaculars to be found at Coney Island in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

In fact, "Pompeii the Exhibit" of 2011 has much in common with a particular Coney Island attraction of 1889--the spectacular “The Last Days of Pompeii”--if not in the particulars than in the shared drive to offer the paying public a fully immersive recreation of the destruction of Pompeii, and in their use of over-the-top hyperbolic detail in describing the wonders of their respective exhibitions.

"The Last Days of Pompeii" of 1889--an immersive spectacle that combined historical vignette, theatre performance, and a pyrotechnic display in recreating the destruction of Pompeii by the fires of Vesuvius--boasted in its press about the number and variety of its cast (over 400 people! "a ballet troupe of 36 dancers trained by Batiste Cherotte... a male chorus..., soldiers, acrobats, jugglers, tumblers, [and] wire-walkers"!)

2011's "Pompeii the Exhibit," on the other hand, focuses on the numbers and authenticity of its artifacts (over 250! Some never seen before! The largest number of body casts ever on display!), bringing to mind the press for such Coney Island Spectaculars such as "The Boer War" (Real British and Boer veterans!) and the "Streets of Delhi" (300 authentic Indian natives in costume! Elephants! Camels! Horses!). To further blur the line between "legitimate museum" and popular attraction, "Pompeii the Exhibit" is hosted at a popular exhibition hall sponsored by a television channel--Discovery Times Square--rather than an "ordained" museum such as AMNH; Also, Pompeii the Exhibit" provides visitors not just artifacts and other traditional ways of experiencing history but also what its website describes as a "brand-new, immersive movie experience" reenacting "the moment of Vesuvius’ massive explosion."

So what to make of it all? I see this new exhibition as excitingly in the tradition of 19th Century popular educational amusements--dime museums, popular anatomical museums, and Coney Island recreations--spaces where spectacle and education, prurience and propriety, coexisted for mass consumption. Fun, didactic, spectacular, and a resounding and thoughtful endorsement in today's Times to boot. I, for one, can't wait to go see it.

You can read a fascinating review of "Pompeii the Exhibit"--as quoted above--by Edward Rothstein in today's New York Times by clicking here. You can find out more about Coney Island's “The Last Days of Pompeii" by clicking here. You can find out more about "Pompeii the Exhibit" by clicking here.

Thanks so much to GF Newland for alerting me to this!

Image: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Plaster casts made from hollowed-out molds of rock, where bodies had been captured a moment before they ceased to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

EVENT CANCELLATION: "Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Great Animals" Tonight

My sincere apologies, but tonight's presentation "Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Great Animals"--scheduled to take place at Observatory at 8:00 PM--has been canceled due to food poisoning on the part of our speaker.

Stay tuned for a new dates, and my sincere apologies for any inconvenience.

Tomorrow Night at Observatory: "The 'Oculus Imaginationis' of Ted Serios" with Mikita Brottman

Tomorrow night at Observatory! Hope to see you there!

An illustrated lecture with Mikita Brottman
Date: Friday, March 4
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

Ted Serios was an elevator operator from Chicago who appeared to possess a genuinely uncanny ability. By holding a Polaroid camera and focusing on the lens very intently, he seemed able to produce dream-like pictures of his thoughts on the Polaroid film that subsequently emerged; he referred to these images as “thoughtographs”,This lecture will consider how the Ted Serios phenomenon goes beyond the notion of “real versus fake”, providing different kinds of insights into the relationship between photography, subjectivity, representation and the unconscious.

Mikita Brottman is a British scholar, psychoanalyst, author and cultural critic known for her psychological readings of the dark and pathological elements of contemporary culture. She is a professor of humanities at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. You can find out more about her and her work at
You can find out more about this event on the Observatory website by clicking here and can can access the event on Facebook here. You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paperback Launch Party, "Still Life" by Melissa Milgrom, March 10, The PowerHouse Arena, Brooklyn

Next Thursday, March 10! Hope to see you there.
Paperback Launch Party: Still Life by Melissa Milgrom
Date: Thursday, March 10 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: The PowerHouse Arena
37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY
For more information, please call 718.666.3049

"Who knew a book about dead animals could be so lively? This is a wonderful look at a quirky, passionate, sometimes fanatical subculture."
— A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

In Still Life, Milgrom exposes a world of intrepid hunter-explorers, eccentric naturalists, and gifted museum artisans, all devoted to the paradoxical pursuit of creating the illusion of life. She'll deliver a lecture on the strange art of taxidermy and sign copies of her book, just out in paperback.

Over the past five years Melissa Milgrom has come to understand just what compels people to want to preserve dead animals: an absurd—almost fanatical—love of animals and the beauty of organic forms. Still Life is a completely engrossing look at this intriguing art form that thrives despite its fringe reputation. In the end, it's the taxidermists' love of nature and their unending quest to understand it on its own terms, which ultimately unites the book's characters, more than even the science or art of their craft. Transformed from a curious onlooker to an empathetic participant, Milgrom takes us deep into the world of taxidermy and reveals its uncanny appeal. Straddling science and art, high culture and kitsch—like taxidermy itself—Still Life celebrates the beauty in the uncanny.

Melissa Milgrom has written for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Travel & Leisure, among other publications; she has also produced segments for public radio. She holds a master's degree in American studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Milgrom lives in New York City. Please visit
To find out more, click here. To find out more about the book, click here.

Image: From the Still Life website; caption reads: "This orangutan, mounted in 2003 by a team of taxidermists for the Smithsonian Institution's Behring Hall of Mammals, typifies how exotic animals are procured in a post-expedition era. Photo: Cameron Davidson."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Great Animals" This Thursday at Observatory

This Thursday at Observatory: learn the stories of the epic dioramas of New York's Museum of Natural History and their maker, Carl Akeley, in this illustrated lecture by author Jay Kirk!

Full details follow; very much hope to see you there
Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Great Animals
An illustrated lecture and book signing with author Jay Kirk
Date: Thursday, March 3
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy
***Books will be available for sale and signing

During the golden age of safaris in the early twentieth century, one man set out to preserve Africa's great beasts. In his new book Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals, Jay Kirk details the life and adventures of naturalist and taxidermist Carl Akeley, the brooding genius who revolutionized taxidermy and created the famed African Hall we visit today at New York's Museum of Natural History. The Gilded Age was drawing to a close, and with it came the realization that men may have hunted certain species into oblivion. Renowned taxidermist Carl Akeley joined the hunters rushing to Africa, where he risked death time and again as he stalked animals for his dioramas and hobnobbed with outsized personalities of the era such as Theodore Roosevelt and P. T. Barnum. In a tale of art, science, courage, and romance, Jay Kirk resurrects a legend and illuminates a fateful turning point when Americans had to decide whether to save nature, to destroy it, or to just stare at it under glass.

Tonight, join author Jay Kirk for an illustrated lecture based on his new book Kingdom Under Glass. Books will be available for sale and signing after the event.

Jay Kirk's nonfiction has been published in Harper's, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and The Nation. His work has been anthologized in Best American Crime Writing 2003 and 2004, and Best American Travel Writing 2009 (edited by Simon Winchester). He is a recipient of a 2005 Pew Fellowship in the Arts and is a MacDowell Fellow. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania. You can find out more about him and his work at
You can find out more about this event on the Observatory website by clicking here and can can access the event on Facebook here. You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.