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Body Politik

Art and anatomy intertwine at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Visceral Bodies exhibit.

Art and science are converging at the Vancouver Art Gallery as multimedia work from 20 contemporary international artists explores images of the human body.

Presented in conjunction with Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man, a collection of his 16th century drawings of the body, Visceral Bodies explores representations of the body over the past two decades.

Using photography, sculpture, painting, video and a variety of other media, the exhibition features interpretations of the human body and includes work by both national and international artists.

“The exhibition is an opportunity to reflect as a counterpoint what Leonardo was all about,” says curator Daina Augaitis.

“The 16th century was really the first moment they were studying the body and contributing to art and science and a lot of our current beliefs stem from that basis. I think artists today, and for many decades, have been interested in reassessing those beliefs.”

The exhibit, which is roughly grouped intro three sections, includes work from artists including Mona Hatoum, Kiki Smith, Shelagh Keeley, Marc Quinn and Wim Delvoye. 

“The first section tries to establish what the visceral is, and how artists, especially in the 1980s and 90s who were influenced by feminism in particular, looked at the social and cultural conditions of how we look at the body,” says Augaitis, referencing work from Kiki Smith as an example.

Smith’s Untitled, 1991 is a life-size paper sculpture of a headless human body covered in red ink. Two arms hang on the gallery wall next to the suspended body, while a head lies on the ground at the feet of the sculpture.

The second group of work in the exhibit looks at technology’s influence on the body and changing notions of beauty. “It really looks at how life can now be designed and created in the laboratory. There are so many devices that alter our bodies, different and new technologies that allow us to visualize it in different ways.”

Mexico’s Gabriel de la Mora uses medical imaging technology to represent his family using only their skulls. De la Mora took MRIs of the skulls of his living family members and used the images to recreate their skulls, which he then sculpted. For family members no longer alive, he had the bodies exhumed, X-rayed and reburied.

“There’s the cultural conditioning we have to skulls, which is very different than other cultures,” says Augaitis. “I think a work like that opens a lot of questions on how we represent the body and how technologies are useful.”

The final group of images represent the future of the human body and contain images often void of any physical form at all.

“It represents people’s fears of what tomorrow’s mutations might look like… and in many cases it’s almost grotesque.”

 “Visceral Bodies” runs from February 6 to May 16 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver. Open daily from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Tuesdays to 9:00 pm. Free from February 12 to 28.

More information about Visceral Bodies


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