Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Anatomical Venuses, Slashed Beauties, and Three Fetuses Dancing a Jig," Lecture, Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, This Tuesday, March 1st

If anyone out there has plans to be in or around the lovely city of Cleveland, Ohio this Tuesday, March 1, why not come by the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum to take in an illustrated introduction I will be delivering on the the topic of medical museums?

The lecture--entitled "Anatomical Venuses, Slashed Beauties, and Three Fetuses Dancing a Jig?"--is open to the general pubic and, to the best of my knowledge, free to attend. The lecture is scheduled to being and 6:00 PM and will be followed by a reception at 7:00 PM.

Full details follow; would love to see you there!
Anatomical Venuses, Slashed Beauties, and Three Fetuses Dancing a Jig:
An Illustrated Journey into the Curious World of Medical Museums
Date: March 1, 2011
Time: 6:00 PM Powell Room, 2nd floor
Reception: 7:00 PM, in the Percy Skuy Gallery, of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum (Allen Memorial Medical Library, 11000 Euclid Avenue).
Please RSVP by February 25th, phone 216-368-3648, or e-mail

In April 2007 Joanna Ebenstein created a fascinating blog, Morbid Anatomy, where she has since been "surveying the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture." Medical museums, like the Dittrick, provide much of the content for Morbid Anatomy. But Ebenstein has cast her net still further, exploring arcane and curious collections across Europe and the UK. She'll be sharing with us her take on the often macabre and sometimes beautiful fruit of that search. From wax moulages of syphilitics in Paris to obstetric models in Bologna, and from pathology specimens in London to fetal skeletons in Leiden, Ebenstein explores the wonder of things found in medical museums. In the process, she will offer insights on the psychology of collecting, and reveal the secret life of objects and collections in these intriguing spaces.

Lecture: 6:00 PM Powell Room, 2nd floor, Reception: 7:00 PM, in the Percy Skuy Gallery, of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum (Allen Memorial Medical Library, 11000 Euclid Avenue).

Parking is available in the visitors lot under Severance Hall.
Full info available here.

Image: The Bolognese "Venerina," Anatomical Venus, Clemente Susini, 1780-1782, housed at the Museo di Palazzo Poggi in Bologna, Italy where the Venerina is housed; More on that here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mütter Museum Masquerade Ball, Friday, March 11

The pleasure of your company is respectfully requested at the 3rd Annual Mütter Museum Masquerade Ball taking place on Friday, March 11th and commemorating the 200th birthday of the illustrious Mütter Museum founder Thomas Dent Mutter.
Full details follow; very much hope to see you there!
3rd Annual Mütter Masquerade Ball
Date: Friday, March 11
19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Mütter Museum/College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Don't miss the 3rd Annual Mütter Masquerade Ball!

Join us for an evening marked by fabulous costumes, great food and drink, and a birthday cake befitting the founding benefactor of the Mütter Museum,
whose 200th birthday is March 11.

Whether you sport a Victorian ensemble, or a gilded Victorian mask, we encourage you to have fun and be creative. For those who choose the timeless fashion of cocktail attire, no worries, we will provide masks at the door.

General Admission: $75
9:00pm - 12:30am
Masquerade dance party with live band and a DJ, hors d'oeuvres, "The Mütter" signature cocktail, and beer & wine bar.

VIP: $125
9:00pm - 12:30am
Exclusive access to VIP Lounge featuring the Alchemy Cocktail Lab, a full bar, and a generous buffet.
Includes a complimentary dance lesson the week of the Ball.
- Once your order has been processed, the College will contact you with registration information for the complimentary dance lesson.

The Sumptuous Feast: $250
7:00pm - 12:30am
Join us for the entire evening beginning with a cocktail reception, followed by a Victorian-inspired dinner, and full access to everything! (Black Tie/Masquerade)
Includes a complimentary dance lesson the week of the Ball.
- Once your order has been processed, the College will contact you with registration information for the complimentary dance lesson.
You can purchase tickets--and find out more information--by clicking here.

The Skeleton in Spanish Pulp Fiction Book Covers, 1935-1954

You can see a complete collection of book covers--well worth it!--and find out more at the El Desvan del Abuelito blog by clicking here. Click on images to see larger versions of each.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"The Carnival of Death: Perceptions of Death in Europe and the Americas," 3-Day Conference and Exhibition, University College London, Feb 24-26

"The Carnival of Death: Perceptions of Death in Europe and the Americas"--a 3-day exhibition and conference at University College London--launches today! The exhibition features the artwork of Laurie Lipton--who's "Santa Muerte" is shown above, just in time for tonight's event of the same name --as well as that of Matt Rowe, Sarah Sparkes and many more. The conference spans such topics as Helen Frisby's "revelry and rivalry in the nineteenth century English folk funeral," Adriana Bontea's "The Merry Epitaph and the Art of Memory," and our old friend John Troyer's (familiar sounding?) "Morbid Ink: Field Notes on the Human Memorial Tattoo."

The exhibition is free and open to the public; Although the interdisciplinary conference is also listed as free and open, registration was supposed to have taken place by Friday February 11th, so not sure if one can still beg their way in or not but, from a glance at the program, thinking it might be worth a try.
Perceptions of Death in Europe and the Americas
Conference and Exhibition dates: 24-26 Feb 2011
Venue: Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Keynote speakers: Briony Campbell, Paul Preston, Laurie Lipton

Kindly sponsored by the John Coffin Trust Fund and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in London.

Please note that completed registration forms and fees MUST be received by Friday, 11th February 2011

The exhibition is free and open to all
Opening times: Thursday & Friday, 9am – 6pm, Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Venue: Jessel Room, Senate House South Block
Artists include Colette Copeland, David Glyn, Erik and Rune Eriksson, Spiros Jacovides, Laurie Lipton, Matt Rowe, Sarah Sparkes

In the most general terms death is defined as the final and irreversible cessation of the vital functions in an organism, the ending of life. However, the precise definition of death and the exact time of the transition from life to death differ according to culture, religion and legal system.

The essential insecurities and doubts over the nature and state of death have affected cultural production since the beginning of civilization. Likewise our attitude towards death is characterised by anxieties and ambiguities. ‘On the one hand the horror of death drives us off, for we prefer life; on the other an element at once solemn and terrifying fascinates us and disturbs us profoundly,’ writes George Bataille. Death can be ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished’ to say it with Hamlet, or ‘a wonderful gain’ to quote Schopenhauer. But while philosophers and poets explore the dark attraction of death, in everyday life we push all thought of it aside. Death, and above all our own death, must not impinge upon the living.

From the beginning of Modernism death and the dying have been pushed from the centre of family and community to the edges of society. The hygienic, clean and sterile spaces of hospitals, hospices and morgues have replaced the intimacy of the home, while cemeteries have been moved from the centre of town to the outskirts. The progress in medical science has lead to an increase in life expectancy in the Western world resulting in an ever ageing population – it seems as though we have almost found a cure for death. Medical apparatus now allow us to keep a body alive and prolong physical existence even after the brain has died – but what then does it mean to be human and how can we die in a humane way? Recent cases of assisted suicide of terminally ill people have sparked off discussions in the UK around the right to die and the dignity of death.

Meanwhile changes in religious believes and practices are turning ancient traditions into commercial enterprises and festivities such as Halloween parties or Mexico’s Día de los muertos or Rio de Janeiro’s carnival , which are marketed as major tourist attractions. Western societies no longer have the time or the space to mourn as they used to. Rather the public mourning and posthumous apotheosis of celebrities such as Princess Di or more recently Michael Jackson appear to have taken the place of the private. Here mourning has become public spectacle, international and accessible to all via TV, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

This conference sets out to look at death in the contemporary world and how changes in society since the turn of the 19th century have affected our perceptions of death. It consists of three broad themes which interconnect with each other: Death and Desire; Death and Power; and Rituals and Customs. We invite papers from a wide variety of disciplines and approaches such as: anthropology, art history, cultural studies, film studies, fine art, history, law, literary studies, philosophy, psychology, theology, etc.
F0r more info, and a full line-up, click here. To download the exhibition catalog, click here. Thanks to participant John Troyer and blogger Suzanne G for alerting me to this event.

Image: Santa Muerte by Laurie Lipton, charcoal & pencil on paper, 2011; click view larger, more detailed version.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"La Santa Muerte" ("Saint Death"), Film Screening with Director Eva Aridjis, Observatory, Thursday, February 24th

In Mexico there is a cult that is rapidly growing--the cult of Saint Death. This female grim reaper, considered a saint by followers but Satanic by the Catholic Church, is worshipped by people whose lives are filled with danger and/or violence--criminals, gang members, transvestites, sick people, drug addicts, and families living in rough neighborhoods. Eva Aridjis' documentary film La Santa Muerte examines the origins of the cult and takes us on a tour of the altars, jails, and neighborhoods in Mexico where the saint's most devoted followers can be found.
Morbid Anatomy is extremely excited to announce a screening of the film "La Santa Muerte" ("Saint Death") followed by a moderated Q and A with Eva Aridjis, the film's director.

The event will take place this Thursday, February 24th at 8:00 PM; If interested, we suggest you arrive early, as this event looks poised to sell out.

Full details follow; hope to see you there!

"La Santa Muerte" ("Saint Death") Film Screening
A screening of the documentary film "La Santa Muerte" ("Saint Death") with the film's director Eva Aridjis
Date: Thursday, February 24th
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

In Mexico there is a cult that is rapidly growing--the cult of Saint Death. This female grim reaper, considered a saint by followers but Satanic by the Catholic Church, is worshipped by people whose lives are filled with danger and/or violence--criminals, gang members, transvestites, sick people, drug addicts, and families living in rough neighborhoods. Eva Aridjis' documentary film La Santa Muerte examines the origins of the cult and takes us on a tour of the altars, jails, and neighborhoods in Mexico where the saint's most devoted followers can be found.

Tonight, join Morbid Anatomy and Observatory for a screening of the film in its entirety. The film's director, Eva Aridjis, will be on hand to introduce the film and to answer questions.

Eva S. Aridjis is a Mexican filmmaker born in Holland. She studied Comparative Literature at Princeton University and received an MFA in Film and TV at New York University (1996–2001) where she produced a number of short films including Taxidermy: The Art of Imitating Life" and "Billy Twist", both of which played at the Sundance Film Festival and dozens of other festivals around the world. An activist for many of Mexico City's street children, in 2003 she made the film "Niños de la Calle" ("Children of the Street") to bring attention to the epidemic. Eva wrote and directed her first narrative feature film entitled The Favor, starring Frank Wood and Ryan Donowho, in 2004. Aridjis's second feature documentary, about a Mexican religious cult, is entitled "La Santa Muerte" ("Saint Death") and is narrated by Gael García Bernal. "La Santa Muerte" premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2007 and has screened at festivals all over the US, Latin America, and Europe. Aridjis is currently teaching Screenwriting in the Graduate Film department at New York University and preparing her next narrative feature.

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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wooden Anatomical Eve, "Anatomie des Vanités" Exhibition, Brussels, Belgium, 2008

An astounding wooden Anatomical Eve from an unnamed private collection, as featured in the "Anatomie des Vanités" exhibit at The Erasmus House in Brussels, Belgium in 2008.

An overview of the exhibition, from the museum flyer:
The exhibition includes animals, Narwhal tusks, an anatomical Eve, a whale's penis, 'vanities', turned ivories, testimony to the masters' virtuosity an of the taste for curiosities that could be found in the 'Wunderkammern' of the 16th and 17th centuries. These historic objects are contrasted with contemporary art (Jan fabre, Marie-Jo Lafontaine) and with paintings of this Museum (Jerome Bosh, Quentin Massys, Hans Holbein). The artist Aida Kazarian has helped redesign the layout of the Museum, on the 75th anniversary of the foundation of Erasmus House. The highlight of the exhibition is a pregnant anatomical Eve, coming from a private collection. This exhibition on vanity, though in jubilant fashion, shows many representations of death, at the confluence of the traditional 'memento mori' of the Middles Ages and the birth of scientific thought in the curiosity cabinets.
More about the exhibition here. More about Erasmus House here.

Inspired by Elettrogenica.

"The Morton Skull Collection: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead", TONIGHT at Observatory, Brooklyn!

Tonight! Observatory! Hope to see you there!
The Morton Skull Collection: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead
An illustrated lecture and book signing with professor Ann Fabian
Date: Monday, February 21st
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5

When Philadelphia doctor Samuel George Morton died in 1851 he left behind collection of more than a thousand human skulls. Not the grisly leftovers of botched operations, but the fruit of 20 years’ work gathering up human remains from around the world. Friends sent Morton heads from Peru, Cuba, Mexico, and Liberia, from almshouses in Pennsylvania, swamps in Florida, beaches in Hawaii, gallows in Indonesia, tombs in Egypt, and battlefields in Texas. Naturalists like Morton collected plants and animals, but trafficking in human remains was something strange and different. Morton was sure that human skulls held clues to the riddles of race that troubled his generation. Were human beings all one species? After measuring skulls, Morton thought not.

In her new book The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead, professor Ann Fabian details the story of Morton's collection of skulls; in the process, she not only details Morton's problematic and flawed ideas about race and science, but also the stories behind the individual skulls comprising the Morton Skull collection, the remnants of which now reside in the storerooms of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Whose skulls were these? How did they get to Philadelphia? And what has happened to this great collection of heads?

Tonight, join Morbid Anatomy and Professor Ann Fabian for an illustrated lecture based on the contents of Fabian's new book The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead. Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing.

Ann Fabian is a Professor of History and American Studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where she recently completed a term as dean of humanities. She has published books on gambling and personal narratives, and written about the bodybuilding publisher Bernarr Macfadden, the ancient remains of Kennewick Man, and the dead bodies left floating in flooded New Orleans. She is working on a new book about ruins. The School for Advanced Research, the American Antiquarian Society, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation supported her research on The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead. She is pleased to talk about this curious business.
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.

"Carmina Burana" and Carl Orff's "Theatrum Mundi," 1936

I have always loved the music of Carl Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana, but until I saw the above video clip on the Cosmodromium Blog, I had no idea that the music was only a small part of Orff's overall theatrical conception, or the fascinating story of the source material which inspired the piece.

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana was completed in 1936 and premiered to great acclaim in Nazi-era Frankfurt in 1937; it was based on a manuscript of 254 medieval poems and dramatic texts written by students and clergy--many with a decidedly satirical tone towards the Catholic Church--that was uncovered at a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria in 1803.

The poems are mainly songs of morals and mockery, love songs, and drinking and gaming songs with additional songs of mourning, as well as "a satire, and two educational stories about the names of animals..." Within the collection are also descriptions of a raucous medieval paradise in which "the rules of priesthood include sleeping in, eating heavy food and drinking rich wine, and regularly playing dice games."

Carl Orff 's original conception of the staged Carmina Burana (as so provocatively shown above) included elements of dance, masks and costume, set design, and dramatic acting in a kind of theatrical gestalt he termed "Theatrum Mundi," a theatrical conception in which music, movement, and speech were all equal and essential pieces of a whole.

The movement you see above--drawn from a 1975 version Carmina Burana directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle--is entitled "O Fortuna" ("Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi"); it is the best known segment of Carmina Burana and it both begins and ends the piece. Lyrics follow, in English translation from Wikepedia:
O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
always waxing
or waning;
detestable life
now difficult
and then easy
deceive a sharp mind;
it melts them like ice.

and empty,
you whirling wheel,
stand malevolent,
vain health
always dissolves,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through trickery,
my bare back
I bring to your villainy.

Fate, in health
and in virtue,
is now against me,
and defeat
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating string;
since Fate
strikes down the strong,
everyone weep with me!
You can find out more about this amazing performance--directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle for Munchner Rundfunkorchester Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and conducted by Kurt Eichhorn in West Germany--here and can purchase a copy by clicking here. You can watch much of the production--albeit in pixelated form--by clicking here.

Information via Wikipedia, 1 and 2; clip via Cosmodromium.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Getting Naked: The Story of the Aquatic Ape Theory" with Mark Kessell, Observatory, Thursday Feb. 17th


This Thursday at Observatory! Hope to see you there.

An illustrated lecture by artist and ex-physician Mark Kessell
Date: Thursday, February 17th
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

Have you ever stepped out of the shower and noticed a naked ape in the mirror? Scientists agree: that’s what you are. But why do we look so different from our very, very, very close relative, the chimpanzee? The Aquatic Ape Theory, first proposed in the 1930’s but developed much more recently, proposes a strange but surprisingly plausible idea: we took a dip in the pool of evolution, paddled about a bit, and by the time we moved to a drier neighborhood we were walking tall, straight and naked. The back-story behind this theory is a tale of scientific in-fighting and elitism as remarkable as the theory itself.

Ex-physician turned artist, Mark Kessell, dishes the dirt on human evolution in a fun-filled and completely un-scientific talk on the world of science. Get the Naked Truth! Get it now. Get it at Observatory.

Mark Kessell is an Australian medical doctor and professional artist working in New York City. Most of his work has a biological or scientific focus. He is represented by Kim Foster Gallery in Chelsea where his next exhibition, “Specimen Box” will open on March 17th, 2011. You can find out more about 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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day Everybody!

The heart: two dissections. Colour mezzotint by J. F. Gautier d'Agoty, 1754 By: Gautier Dagoty

Via the amazing Wellcome Images website.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation, Hans Memling, c.1485

Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation, Hans Membing, c.1485, Oil on oak panel, Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg.

Via Darko is Dorko,, and

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Last Weekend to View the Amazing Museum of Everything Exhibition #3, London

This is absolutely the last weekend to view the much heralded (and not just by me) Museum of Everything Exhibition #3 in London. And, in a bittersweet farewell to this amazing exhibition, the folks at The Museum of Everything have put together a thoroughly action-packed final weekend featuring a variety of exciting programming.

Full details for the weekend's activities follow; and please, I implore you, if you live near London and have not yet seen this exhibitions, do yourself a favor and go! You won't be sorry. I promise.

As far as we’re concerned, Valentine’s Weekend starts at 10:30am on Friday 11th February 2011; so fire up your hot-tub, cover yourself in love-gel and prepare yourself for what may well be the greatest weekend in the history of weekends.
For your delectation we shall have muzac - all day, every day - our favourite artistes performing in nooks and crannies right across the museum, be it accordion solos, tubas, one man bands, human jukeboxes, Punches, Judies, or perhaps just a lonely snare drum announcing the reveille.

And if you pop down at 4:00pm on Sunday 13th February 2011 you might be treated to a private viewing of that rarely seen gem - Pop Goes the Easel - directed by that randy rambunctious ruddy red rolicker, Ken Russell, as part of The Midgets & Giants Film Festival.

Who knows, the movie may even be introduced by Sir Peter Blake himself ...

For it is Sir Peter Blake who we have to thank for this astonishing show, for his brilliant eye, his enduring aesthetic, his wit, his love and his support. They say you never forget your first love and he is most certainly ours.

"The Museum of Everything was the highlight of my London trip, I can’t believe you’ll close! "Cindy Sherman, January 2011

Cindy’s right, this really is your very last chance to see the astonishing tapestries of Ted Willcox, the animal empire of Walter Potter, the magical funfair of Joby and Anna Carter and the miniature fairgrounds of Arthur Windley.

Come Monday monring, it’s adieu dear friends - perhaps for a few weeks, perhaps forever – because our plans are up in the air, we can’t commit, although we do have our roving eyes on Russia, the Americas, the Middle Yeast, even London’s glittering West End. The world is our Oyster Card ...

Until next time, we remain yours in Everything:

The Museum of Everything
right behind the library on the corner of Sharpleshall
Street & Regents Park Road in Primrose Hill London NW1
For more on the Museum of Everything #3, see this recent post.

Images are all drawn from postcards available at the Museum of Everything gift shop. A lovely (if slightly expensive) book is available also. Click here for more.

Tonight!!!! A: Head on B: Body: The Real Life Dr. Frankenstein," Observatory

Tonight at Observatory! I advise coming early, as this one is sure to sell out; Hope to see you there!
A: Head on B: Body: The Real Life Dr. Frankenstein
A screening and lecture with film-maker Jim Fields and Mike Lewi
Date: TONIGHT, Thursday February 10
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

In an eventful and successful career spanning 40 years, Dr. Robert White–pioneering neurosurgeon and Professor at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University–did many things. He participated in Nobel Prize-nominated work, published more than 700 scholarly articles, examined Vladimir Lenin’s preserved brain in Cold War Russia, founded Pope John Paul II’s Committee on Bioethics, went to mass daily, and raised 10 children. He also engaged in a series of horrifying and highly controversial experiments reminiscent of a B-Movie mad scientist, experiments which pushed the limits of medical ethics, infuriated the animal rights community, and questioned notions of identity, consciousness, and corporeality as well as mankind’s biblically-condoned dominion over the animal kingdom.

Tonight, join film-maker Jim Fields–best known for his 2003 documentary “End of the Century” about the legendary punk band The Ramones–and Mike Lewi for a screening of Fields’ short documentary about the life and work of this real-life Dr. Frankenstein whose chilling “full body transplants” truly seem the stuff of a B-Movie terror. Fields will introduce the film–which features a series of interviews with Dr. White discussing his controversial experiments–with an illustrated lecture contextualizing the doctor’s work within the history of “mad scientists” past and present, fictional and actual; scientists whose hubris drove them to go rogue by tampering with things perhaps best left alone.

Jim Fields made a few documentaries, one of which, “End of the Century: the Story of the Ramones” is particularly long. He’s currently a video journalist at Time Magazine and

Mike Lewi is a filmmaker, event producer, and disc jockey.
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.

Image: Drawing by Dr. Harvey Cushing, early 20th Century, found on the Yale Medical Library website.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Naming The Animals" Call for Works, Curious Matter and Proteus Gowanus

A very exciting looking call for art works just crossed my desk; full details below:
Curious Matter is announcing its new Call For Entries, "Naming The Animals." If you believe that this will be of interest to your artist members, please make it available to them. Thank you for your cooperation.
Curious Matter

We're absolutely delighted to announce this special collaboration between CURIOUS MATTER and PROTEUS GOWANUS. Details are below and attached as a pdf file. Cheers!


Naming The Animals

Entries Due: March 4, 2011

Exhibition dates: April 3 - May 15, 2011*

Naming The Animals is a collaboration between Curious Matter in Jersey City, NJ and Proteus Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. The exhibition will be presented in two parts concurrently at Curious Matter and Proteus Gowanus. The curators will select the location for the artwork. The exhibition is a complement to the yearlong multi-disciplinary inquiry hosted by Proteus Gowanus on the theme of Paradise. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Theme: In our collective effort to understand the world we're driven to catalogue and name everything around us. From Adam’s task to name the animals in paradise, to cave painting to modern ecology and zoology, we’re compelled to describe and render the creatures that share our planet. Medieval bestiaries, and the work of Ernst Haeckel and John James Audubon are vivid examples, as are the installations of Mark Dion and the ecological works of Alexis Rockman. These various efforts are not necessarily purely aesthetic or scientific; naming and cataloguing can also include the assignment of moral or metaphorical associations–implicit is the desire to declare and understand ourselves.

We invite contemporary artists to submit work that draws inspiration from the natural world and the human drive to understand and catalogue the world around us. We're taking a broad approach to the theme and are particularly interested in work that looks beyond a literal interpretation.

Media/dimensions: All media will be considered. Artworks should not exceed 24"(framed) in any direction for wall hung work. Small sculptural work and bookarts particularly welcome, larger sculptures will be considered individually. Video artists must provide their own equipment.

Eligibility: All artists working in any media.

Submissions: (Please include all information. Late, incomplete, or weblink submissions will not be considered or responded to.)
1. Up to 5 images. Postal submissions should include 35mm slides or letter-sized color printouts. Do not send original artwork. Digital file submissions will only be accepted via email and must be in JPEG or PDF format, resolution set to 72 dpi, no larger than 800 X 800 pixels and no larger than 2MB. Please number images to correspond to Image List.
2. Image list. Numbered to correspond with your image submissions. Include image #, your name, title, date of work, medium, size and price. You may include a brief description for each image, however this isn’t required.
3. One page résumé. Please include a three line bio, your
contact information and an email address.
4. Artist’s statement. No longer than 300 words.

Fees: NO FEE TO ENTER, accepted artists pay a nominal materials fee of $35.

Deadline: Entries must be received no later than March 4, 2011.

Return of Submission Materials: Include a SASE if you want your materials to be returned. Make sure there is sufficient postage. Materials without postage will not be returned.

Notification: Accepted artists will be notified via email by March 7, 2011. NOTE: Accepted artists must confirm their participation by March 8 and provide a print-quality digital image for the catalogue by March 11.

Drop Off: Drop off of accepted artwork will be March 26 and 27, noon to 2pm at Curious Matter. Mailed artwork must arrive by March 25 and include return shipping label/postage/etc.

Pick Up: Artists are responsible for picking up artwork on May 21 noon to 2pm. Return of mailed artwork with return postage will begin on May 16, 2011.

Email Submissions To:
By Post: Curious Matter, 272 Fifth Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302

* works selected for exhibition at Proteus Gowanus will remain on display until mid-July as part of the Paradise exhibition.

CURIOUS MATTER is an exhibition venue for contemporary visual art located in downtown Jersey City, NJ. 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. The gallery is open Sundays noon to 3pm and by appointment during exhibitions. Curious Matter is a non-profit organization, and a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit service organization.

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. Proteus Gowanus incorporates the rich and diverse cultural resources of several non-profit organizations into its exhibits and programming. 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.

272 Fifth Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302,
[T] 201-659-5771 [E]
follow us on facebook!
There is no fee to enter, and submissions are due on March 4th; Click here for more information. To find out more about Proteus Gowanus gallery, click here; to fine out more about Curious Matter, click here.

Image: Illustration by artist/naturalist/monist Ernst Haeckel, 19th Century, via

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Physica Sacra," Johannes Jacob Scheuchzer, 1735

The incredible images above are drawn from a book which has long intrigued me, Johannes Jacob Scheuchzer's 4-volume early 18th Century extravaganza of art, science and mysticism entitled Physica Sacra.

As described by Christie's Auction House:
'In Scheuchzer's gigantic work, Physica Sacra, the Baroque attains, philosophically as well as artistically, its high point and its conclusion' (Faber du Faur, German Baroque Literature, p. 472). Scheuchzer, a doctor and natural scientist from Zurich, planned the Physica sacra as an explanation of and a commentary on the Bible on natural-scientific grounds. He himself oversaw the illustrations which were largely based on his own natural history cabinet or on other famous European cabinets of rare specimens...
This book seems like a fitting final response to yesterday's very stimulating "Art and the Curiosity Cabinet" Conference at Seton Hall University, where a lot was said about these ways in which early cabinets (and pre-modern inquiry) resided at the borders of art and science, fact and mysticism. I don't think I have ever seen a more elegant expression of these ideas than the content and illustrations of this book, which blends bible commentary with natural history in a bombastic interest in all of the known world of its time, spanning Memento Mori to the Thesaurus of Snowflakes to biblical miracles, all given equal treatment and weight.

Click on images to see much larger and more detailed images; worth your while, I promise! You can see 737 of the images from the book (!!!) (from which the above 7 are drawn) in Greyherbert's amazing Flickr stream by clicking here.

Inspired by this recent post on the Ptak Science Books blog discussing the book; Text from Christie's Auction house description of the book when recently auctioning off a complete 4-volume set.

Images above, top to bottom:
  1. Homo ex Humo ('man from the ground', or 'dust')
  2. Memento Mori
  3. Ventriculi
  4. Heart
  5. Columna Ignis
  6. Solea cum Squamae
  7. Thesarus of Snowflakes

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bolognese "Venerina," Anatomical Venus, Clemente Susini, 1780-1782

The Bolognese "Venerina" is one of the more or less faithful replicas of the original model, the Venere dei Medici, that Clemente Susini (1754-1814) made between 1780-1782 in Florence. The agony of a young woman is represented in her last instant of life as she abandons herself to death voluptuously and completely naked. The thorax and abdomen can be opened, allowing the various parts to be disassembled so as to simulate the act of anatomic dissection.

A virtual dissection, to be carried out by lifting the movable layers or ‘pieces’ to reveal veins, arteries and internal organs. A young woman, the Venerina carries a foetus in her womb – to suggest the procreative potential of the female body – despite the total lack of any outward signs of pregnancy.

The alienating effect that the statue produces by combining anatomical detail, crude and repulsive, with a harmonious and sensual litheness, is the result of a precise scientific choice: sensitivity is an essential quality of matter; sensitivity – with its wide range of manifestations, including the sensuality of the Venerina who surrenders herself to death – lies at the core of the physical and physiological organisation of man.
From the website for the stunning Museo di Palazzo Poggi in Bologna, Italy where the Venerina is housed.