With their works, the artists depict human anatomy and viscera, exploring the medicalization of the body, its museological preservation for the purpose of study and examination, while also touching on the subject’s alienation from its medicalized body.
The exhibition is prompted by Hervé Guibert’s short story A Man’s Secrets, in which Guibert imagines the trepanning of a brain which we surmise to belong to the recently deceased Michel Foucault. Fantastically, the surgeon’s incision releases a deeply buried memory: A young Foucault is taken by his surgeon father to witness the amputation of a man’s leg, to strengthen the boy’s “virility.” On Foucault’s death certificate, his family obfuscates his HIV status, indicating cancer as the cause of death. Guibert points to the irony of this lie, writing, “They stole his death from him who had wanted to be its master, and they stole even the truth of his death from him who had been the master of truth.”
In photographs taken in 1978 at the Fragonard Museum of anatomical oddities and the anthropological Museum of Man in Paris, Guibert pictures exposed organs, skeletons, and preserved curios. The photographs suggest an awareness that, at the institutional level, there is greater concern for the cadaver as an object of taxonomic inquiry than for the life of the ill human subject, especially the marginalized subject. In Autopotrait, rue du Moulin-vert, 1986, Guibert photographs himself, a subject living with AIDS, posed as a cadaver and shrouded in a clinical white sheet. A portrait of a middle aged Foucault wearing a bathrobe nods to Guibert’s relationship with the philosopher, with whom he shared an interest in the taxonomic and museological.
Along with Guibert’s photographs, the exhibition features two carousels from Luther Price’s 35mm slide work series titled Meat.The selections are from a vast body of work that includes film and performance, begun in the mid 1980s following the artist’s near fatal gunshot wound to his abdomen. Spliced together by hand in the shape of circular petri dishes and cellular blocks, the slides bring to mind a scientific study. They incorporate stills from salvaged health clinic instructional videos, close ups of surgical procedures, crushed insects, and found unprocessed film.
Price plays with the institutional use of film as a technology for medical preservation. He stitches together images of surgeons and patients; gloved hands reach and probe into bodily orifices–mouths, nostrils, surgical openings. Air bubbles, trapped between the slides, recall cellular patterns and the flow of oxygen or blood. The compliant medical subject, imaged in the archival institutional footage, is messed and betrayed by the unruly body’s flesh and fluids. A few slides break from the predominant anatomic imagery, picturing a collection of pressed butterflies. This trace of the museological suggests that the use of film as a technology of preservation is not separate from, but a continuation of the cabinet of curiosities.
“Hervé Guibert, Luther Price” is part of a series of exhibitions that unities the work of Guibert with the work of other artists. Prior exhibitions in the series were curated by Jason Simon and Moyra Davey.