8’ x 19’ x 22’
aluminum pipe, forty-nine chiffon panels with inkjet-transferred imagery
Abdominal Hysterectomy: Dissection of the Observer
3’ x 4’ x 2’
modified exam table, rubber top, video projection, live video feed
18” x 18” x 18”
cast aluminum, cast vinyl rubber crystals
During the anatomical Renaissance of the sixteenth century, the practice of instructional dissection became the preferred method for the study of human anatomy. However, because of preservation problems with cadavers and theological disapproval, dissections were performed rarely and were thus significant events. To accommodate viewers, an architectural environment was designed specifically for instructional dissection with the goal of allowing the largest number of students the opportunity to observe the procedures. Such rooms were typically round, with the corpse placed in the center, surrounded by ascending concentric tiers of seats. The architecture of an anatomy theater creates a power relationship between the inhabitants of this space depending on their roles and locations in the theater. When in an anatomy theater, one has a heightened awareness of the inequality among the occupants, and one’s role as “viewer” or “viewed” comes into question.
My intention as an artist is to evoke contemplation on how we perceive, stereotype, and stigmatize the female body and to question societal taboos surrounding sexuality and reproduction. Thus, my research focuses on our eternal fascination with the human reproductive system and challenges perceptions of the female anatomy. I approach my work using a very logical and systematic method, grounding myself in research on the history of medicine. An extension of my research includes the context where anatomy is studied, historical anatomical and surgical theaters. I critically analyze this research by creating objects placed within architectural installations that examine the shifting theories on the female body. The architectural environments I create metaphorically reference the interior and exterior of the body – when entering a room, the viewer enters the body and their role as spectator shifts to that of the spectacle. These installations represent an intersection of scientific ideas and contemporary aesthetic observations, which provide insight into prevalent societal attitudes surrounding the female form.
Teatro Anatomico was created during a three-month residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, New York, and is the outcome of my research on anatomy theaters in Italy, England, and the United States. Teatro Anatomico is constructed of three concentric ellipses, eight feet in height and 19’x22’ in diameter. The supporting structure is one inch aluminum pipe covered with forty-nine stretched sheer chiffon panels that suggest the sensual quality of the body and the transparency skin. Each fabric panel is printed with imagery from historical medical illustrations combined with a railing motif that creates the illusion of descending in space as the viewer approaches the center. The diaphanous chiffon permits the voyeur (or viewer) to peer through the transparent skin of the walls, much as medical instruments enable the examination of our bodies. As the viewer approaches the center of the installation, Lightening, a chandelier whose form reflects the female reproductive system, illuminates the interior space. Within the inner ellipse is Abdominal Hysterectomy: Dissection of the Observer, a steel examination table with a translucent rubber top. Projected on the tabletop is a video of a female body that is operated on intermittently: the procedure, an abdominal hysterectomy. As the viewer stands at the foot of the exam table, his or her face is captured by a video camera and streamed live onto the prone female body. Members of the audience experience the uncomfortable awareness that they are simultaneously “viewing” and being “viewed,” as they observe the operation performed on themselves. My work examines the body’s construction by presenting historically and socially determined assumptions and speaks to contemporary issues of privacy and voyeurism.