Review: Anatomica

Contemporary art within the theme of anatomical imagery excites and unsettles.

courtesy Dalhousie Art Gallery
The viewer is invited into and simlutaneously distanced from a medical gaze.

The attendant sat wordlessly at his desk as I entered the gallery. Each footstep took me further from the outside world and moved me through an eerie place of dimly lit corners, ghostly voices and uncanny objects.

A tall pile of porcelain femur bones dominates one wall, slices of paper-quilled dissected bodies rest in glass cases, a teaching model of a human spine reveals itself as a representation in knitted cotton. The artworks generate tension–the viewer is invited into and simultaneously distanced from a medical gaze.

Internal landscapes are reimagined and re-articulated to confront viewer expectations and unsettle any single reading of the human body. Anatomica is a haunting exhibit that combines rare anatomical atlases, medical teaching models and medical artifacts with multimedia contemporary artworks by artists from across Canada.

Ottawa-based academic and artist Cindy Stelmackowich was invited to curate this exhibit after completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Dalhousie two years ago. "I have had a long history and fascination with anatomical imagery," says Stelmackowich. "So I naturally started noticing contemporary artists working with this thematic over the past five years."

Anatomica reveals the dialogue between contemporary art that engages with human anatomy and traditional medical approaches to representing the body. "In most instances," says Stelmackowich, "these artworks are aesthetic and poetic contributions to standard biomedical investigation."

Stelmackowich says the exhibition has been well-received and the pinball machine is particularly popular. Howie Tsui's Musketball! allows players to determine the destructive path of antiquated projectiles on a soldier's body–sucking chest wound pop bumpers score 100 points.

To March 8
Dalhousie Art Gallery, 6101 University Avenue

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