Bodies- Hayward Gallery
I went to the Hayward
Gallery to see Spectacular Bodies:
The Art & Science of the Human
Body from Leonardo to Now.
It's a gruesome and revealing exhibition
in more ways than one. Revealing,
because it showed preserved body corpses
and body parts with their exposed
body sinews, muscles and sawn bones,
the skin cut and folded back and in
one exhibit only the watery fat of
women's breasts supporting trembling
nipples, not to mention a severed
head on a headrest!
There were anatomy lectures recorded
by Rembrandt such as The Anatomy Lesson
of Jan Deiuman 1656. All in all, it
is a real Chamber of Horrors - Clementi
Susi in 1804 showed the beached wreck
of an adult male skinned from skull
to penis, everything such as kidneys
and liver falling out of the carcass.
A bit of light relief is given by
Leonardo's studies of a horse, as
well as Frith's famous painting of
the Victorian Railway Station.
Giovan-Battista Manfredini's carved
and natural- looking three-quarters
figure of a pregnant woman is shown
holding aside two great flaps of skin
to reveal the contents of her womb
with a life-size baby pressed against
her uterus (1773 - 76). Gaetano Zumbo's
Dissection of the Head (1701) shows
how the anatomist and the artist worked
hand-in-hand. The Anatomical Crucifixion
cast by Thomas Banks in 1801 from
the flayed body of a murderer, nailed
up to test the position a crucified
body would fall into "when. .
. . being warm", is perhaps the
most powerful and disturbing image
in the entire exhibition. Tony Ousler
showed a bull's testicles preserved
in jars with images of mouths projected
on to them as if they were appearing
to talk; not to mention six rows of
cows' organs pickled in jars by Damien
Hirst called for some reason The Lovers
(The Committed Lovers). The German
Professor - Gunther von Hagens, who
discovered a method by which these
corpses or body parts could be preserved,
has been referred to as Frankenstein
(the exhibition was first on show
in Germany) but he says he is purely
"bringing anatomy to the masses".
The exhibition has received criticism
from Christian and Anti-Abortion Groups
and a spokesman from the charity "Life"
said, "there is something distasteful
about this". Critics recalled
how Anthony-Noel Kelly was jailed
in 1998 for stealing human body parts
which he used to make moulds for his
sculptures and the directors of the
Young Unknowns Gallery in Bermondsey
were convicted in 1989 for showing
an earring made out of human foetus.
A foetus from 18th Century has been
shown at the current exhibition decorated
with beads around its ankles and wrist;
also a child's foot of 300 years ago
showing the arterial system; both
from the same collection in Leiden
(Netherlands) anatomical museum.
Martin Kemp, Professor of History
of Art at Oxford University said,
"the works are images exploring
the miracles of God's creation".
Some will find the exhibition fascinating,
others will think it is macabre and
obscene. I felt somewhat disturbed
(especially when I saw the print of
a man feeding a dog human body parts).
Due to the fact that I have had many
surgeries, I think that the exhibition
left me feeling a bit stressed, but
this is only my opinion.