Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Winners of Death: A Graveside Companion Art and Death Book Giveaway!

Thanks to all who entered our recent giveaway of three signed copies of our new book Death: A Graveside Companion, our new, heavily illustrated magnum opus documenting the variety of ways humankind has come to terms with, imagined, visualized and pictured death.

In the spirit of the book, we asked Morbid Anatomy readers to share an image of their favorite artwork or artifact illustrating the intersections of death and beauty, and to tell us about the piece and why they chose it. 

It was very difficult to choose between all the wonderful and imaginative entries, but above are the three images we chose, submitted by--from top to bottom--Instagram user @dagger_of_the_mind, J. Moriarty and Lynn Duenow.

The first image is "Revelation: The Vision of Death," one of 241 illustrations created by Gustave Doré for a deluxe illustrated bible known as La Grande Bible de Tours in 1866. This image was chosen by @dagger_of_the_mind, who said of it "The Artist's command of contrast, the human form, and the inhuman realize the myths that comprise the human condition. And it's badass"

The second image--"Humana Fragilitas (Human Frailty)", painted by by Salvator Rosa in 1656, was sent in by J. Moriarty. Of the piece, the entrant commented "with its many symbols of human mortality scattered throughout, this painting deeply illuminates the fact that the strands of death are as naturally woven into the fabric of our days as are the threads of life. Death here is at once terrifying and beautiful, perfectly capturing the ambivalent relationship we humans with it have. A enchantingly poignant work by such a profoundly bereaved artist, it demonstrates that Death can be a catalyst for the beauteous as much as for the destructive."

The final image was sent in by Lynn Dueno. Lynn did not share any information about the provenance or creator of the piece but we were very much drawn by its folk/tribal aspect which evokes a Kachina Doll. Upon closer inspection, you can see that the crown is composed of illustrations of moulages, while other seemingly abstract patterns are comprised of golden insects and other macabre symbols. Click the image above to see for yourself!

Thanks so much to all who entered! And congratulations to the winners!

You can find out more about the book--and get a copy of your own--here.








Monday, November 27, 2017

RIP Mervyn Heard: Friend, Scholar, Showman

We are very sad to report the death of the wonderful Mervyn Heard. A rare pairing of scholar and showman, he was a genius of the magic lantern, ghost shows and phantasmagoria, and was a contributor to our recent book Death: A Graveside Companion.

He was also a friend and will be sorely missed.

This video by the über-talented Ronni Thomas captures he and his passion exceptionally well. RIP, Mervyn. You shall be missed and remembered.


Monday, November 13, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a Signed Copy of our New Book Death: A Graveside Companion


We are delighted to announce a give away of three signed copies of our new book Death: A Graveside Companion, a nearly 400 page compendium of 1,000 images and 19 essays exploring a variety of ways in which humankind has come to terms with, imagined, visualized and pictured death.

In the spirit of the book, we are asking Morbid Anatomy readers to share an image of their favorite artwork or artifact that illustrates the intersections of death and beauty, and to tell us--in no more than 3 sentences--about the piece and why they chose it. 

Entries must be received by midnight on Sunday, November 19th; the three winners will be picked and announced here soon after. PLEASE NOTE: Due to shipping costs, contest only eligible to those in the USA.

There are three ways to enter this contest.
  1. Share in the comment section of this Facebook post
  2. Post on Instagram with the hashtag #deathbookgiveaway
  3. Send it via email to morbidanatomylibrary [at] gmail [dot] com.
Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Images: From FrizziFrizzi review of the book to be found here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Happy Birthday to "Death: A Graveside Companion:" New Book on Art and Death by our Founder Joanna Ebenstein

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Graveside-Companion-Joanna-Ebenstein/dp/0500519714
We would like to wish a festive happy birthday to Death: A Graveside Companion--the new book by our founder Joanna Ebenstein--whose official US release date is today!

You can order a copy of this epic book which explores, via over 1,000 images and 19 essays, humankind's attempts attempts – mythological, scientific and popular – to imagine, respond to, or find meaning in the mystery of death here.

Image from the book: Ivory Memento Mori by an unknown maker from c. 1640. In the 16th century, the memento mori--or objects created to urge the viewer to contemplate their mortality--moved from the church or the cemetery to the home, with the creation of artworks and objets d’art such as this one. It shows a skeleton standing among symbols of earthly glory, highlighting the futility of vanity and worldly pleasures.


More on the book follows. Hope you enjoy!

Death: A Graveside Companion
Edited by Joanna Ebenstein, Foreword by Will Self
Featuring the Richard Harris Art Collection
Thames and Hudson, October 24, 2017
368 pages, 1,000 illustrations in color and black and white
Available here

A one-of-a-kind art history, Death: A Graveside Companion is a captivating treasury of images that serves as a testament to humanity’s quests—metaphysical, mythological, scientific, and popular—to imagine, respond to, and come to terms with our own inescapable end.

From the hour of death to the afterlife, seven themed chapters exhibit a staggering range of artworks, artifacts, trophies, and keepsakes from around the world and throughout the ages, counterbalanced by nineteen insightful essays, accessible yet scholarly, from contributors across a broad arc of disciplines and perspectives.

In catacombs, crypts, and bone-pits, readers will find reliquaries, embalmings, and mummies; see somber rites and customs morph into the celebrations of Halloween and Day of the Dead; and behold the great artistic traditions—Memento Mori, Vanitas, Danse Macabre—juxtaposed with vernacular tokens, found photography, and curios from bygone rituals in exotic lands. The majority of the images—which range from fine art to scientific illustration to pop culture ephemera—are drawn from the largely unseen collection of Richard Harris, who has amassed over 3,000 objects related to death.

“Today, it is deemed morbid to view images related to death or contemplate death,” says Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy, who edited DEATH: A Graveside Companion. “The abundance of images in this book proves that this attitude is by far the exception rather than the rule. This book, I hope, will help provide a balance in our one-sided view of death, in which we tend to avoid it or consider it impolite to speak about despite the fact that it will inevitably happen to each of us, and will restore these forgotten and reviled images to a place of dignity and appreciation as important artifacts of humankind’s attempts to make sense of its most profound mystery.”

Rich in never-before-published material, Death: A Graveside Companionis a book like no other, brimming with morbid inspiration and macabre insights to take to the grave.

Essays (In order of appearance):
  • Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head - Laetitia Barbier, Morbid Anatomy Library
  • Poe and the Pathological Sublime - Mark Dery, Cultural Critic
  • The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death - Bruce Goldfarb, Medical Examiner's Office, Baltimore
  • Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation - Michael Sappol, former historian at National Library of Medicine
  • Anatomy Embellished in the cabinet of Frederik Ruysch - Bert van de Roemer, Historian
  • Anatomical Expressionism - Eleanor Crook, Anatomical Artist
  • Playing with Dead Faces - John Troyer, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath
  • The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry - Karen Bachmann, Master Jeweler and Art Historian
  • The Anatomy of Holy Transformation -  Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca, Art Historian
  • The Dance of Death - Kevin Pyle, Artist
  • Eros and Thanatos - Lisa Downing, University of Birmingham
  • Collecting Death - Evan Michelson, Morbid Anatomy Library Scholar in Residence
  • Death in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico - Eva Aridjis, Filmmaker
  • Playing dead – A Gruesome  Form of Amusement - Mervyn Heard, Magic Lantern Scholar and Performer
  • Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon, author of Grand Guiginol and Voluptuous Panic
  • Death-Themed Amusements - Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy
  • Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton - Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press
  • Holy Spiritualism - Elizabeth Harper, Independent scholar
  • Spiritualism and Photography - Shannon Taggart, photographer and independent scholar

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NEW BOOK: SÉANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm: All Souls Day Guest Post by Shannon Taggart

To celebrate All Souls Day today, I asked former Morbid Anatomy Museum artist and scholar in residence Shannon Taggart to write a guest post about her long term project documenting spiritualism, a religion in which devotees attempt to communicate with the souls of the dead.

Shannon is working on a book showcasing this body of work now; titled SÉANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm, it will feature her own photographs along with many incredible antique spiritualist photographs. The foreword will be written by actor Dan Aykroyd (creator of the movie Ghostbusters and fourth-generation Spiritualist) and it will contain essays by artist Tony Oursler (author of the incredible Imponderable), writer Constance DeJong and cultural critic Erik Davis.

To find out more (and pre-order a copy of your own), click here. Shannon also wrote a chapter about spiritualism and photography for our new book Death: A Graveside Companion. More on that can be found here.
Spiritualism is an American-born religion that believes we can communicate with spirits of the dead. In 2001, I began photographing Lily Dale, New York, the town which is home to the world's largest Spiritualist community. The residents of Lily Dale soon introduced me to ‘spirit photography’, a practice excluded from the photography text books I studied from. I was shocked to learn of this hidden history. These absurd, outrageous and oddly tender photographs blew me away. I became particularly fascinated with the images of female mediums excreting phantom forms—phenomena known as ‘ectoplasm.’ These were the most uniquely unsettling images I had ever encountered, and I desperately wanted to de-code their meaning. I wanted to understand what ectoplasm was.

Ectoplasm–Spiritualism’s iconic symbol–visually signifies the belief that life and death remain connected. For Spiritualists, ectoplasm is a paradoxical substance that is both spiritual and material. It is described as a fluid that emanates from the medium’s body, comes to life, and then morphs into shape. The word is taken from the Greek words ektos and plasma, meaning ‘outside formed’. The French physiologist and Nobel Laureate Charles Richet, who coined the term in 1894, observed it as ‘a whitish steam, perhaps luminous, taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which there develops a hand or an arm that gradually gains consistency. This ectoplasm makes personal movements. It creeps, rises from the ground and puts forth tentacles like an amoeba.’ Spiritualists say ectoplasm is soft, soggy, and light sensitive, much like the activated surfaces of photographic materials.

Spiritualism and photography developed at a time In the 19th century when scientific advancements were exposing a variety of forces operating beyond human perception. Disease causing bacteria could be photographed through microscopes; the vastness of the universe was glimpsed through astrophotography; electricity was made visible when placed in contact with photographic materials; X-rays revealed the body’s interior. What else, people wondered, could photography uncover? Spiritualism and photography were brought together in an attempt to create scientific proof of the spiritual dimension, an endeavour that ultimately revealed the complicated relationship that both Spiritualism and photography had with truth.

Spiritualism became the first religion to create an original iconography through the medium of photography. Since the dissemination of early spirit photographs, ectoplasm has taken a place in culture’s visual vocabulary. Like many, I first heard the term ectoplasm via the movie Ghostbusters, co-written by Dan Aykroyd—a fourth-generation Spiritualist. In the fine art world, ectoplasm appears within the work of artists Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler and Zoe Beloff. A painting by the visionary artist Paul Lafolley refers to ectoplasm’s metaphysical meaning, stating— ‘ectoplasm unites life with death.’

Today, a small number of Spiritualist mediums (mostly male, from Europe and the United Kingdom) continue to present ectoplasm. The experience of witnessing these séances is like watching the Victorian spirit photographs jump to life before your eyes. The German medium Kai Muegge even blogs the photographic documentation of his ectoplasmic manifestations alongside the vintage images that resemble his acts.
The forthcoming book, SÉANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm, will present my 16 year-long project on contemporary Spiritualism. Part documentary, part ghost story, SÉANCE will present hundreds of original photographs taken in séance rooms around the world, as well as historical imagery related to attempts to capture spirits on film. Spiritualism's photographic past contains some of the most bizarre, absurd and uniquely unsettling images in the history of photography. SÉANCE is a next chapter.
Images, top to bottom:
  1. Barbara McKenzie, Stanley de Brath, Miss Scatcherd and the spirit extra of Gustave Geley, William Hope, 1924. Barlow collection, British Library, London.
  2. Unidentified sitter, Ada Deane, c. 1922. Barlow collection, British Library, London.
  3. Unidentified sitters (2 women), Ada Deane, c. 1922. Barlow collection, British Library, London.
  4. The spirit guides ‘Stella’ and ‘Bessie’with Mrs. Barlow, Fred Barlow, Violet and Ada Deane, (by) Ada Deane, 1920. Barlow collection, British Library, London.
  5. Kate Goligher with ectoplasm and speaking trumpet, W.J. Crawford, 1920.  Cambridge University Library, Society for Psychical Research.
  6. The medium Eva C. with materialization of a women’s face, Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing, 1911, Institute für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, Freiburg im Breisgau. (left) Medium Kai Muegge with ectoplasm (materialization of a man’s face), Cassadaga, NY, Shannon Taggart, 2013. (right)
  7. A student medium enters a trance, Montcabirol Center for Physical Mediumship, Mirepoix, France, Shannon Taggart, 2014.
  8. Medium Kevin Lawrenson in trance, Montcabirol Center for Physical Mediumship, Mirepoix, France, Shannon Taggart, 2014.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Happy All Saints Day with a the Corpus Sanctus of Saint Victoria, Rome


In commemoration of All Saints Day, we share with you one of our all-time favorite pieces of Catholica related to the cult of the saints. Called a Corpus Sanctus, it is a life-sized effigy of Saint Vittoria (or Victoria ) crafted of wax with human hair and a wreath of flowers. It contains relics related to the saint in the form of her teeth and finger bones. Relics like these are believed to have miraculous powers, usually related to healing.

This piece can be seen today in Rome's Santa Maria della Vittoria, directly across from that Bernini's masterwork The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa.

Photos by our founder Joanna Ebenstein.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Poster for Fritz Lang film Totentanz, or The Dance of Death, Josef Fenneker, 1919

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Graveside-Companion-Joanna-Ebenstein/dp/0500519714/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Poster for the lost Fritz Lang film Totentanz, or The Dance of Death, 1919. The film tells the tale of a beautiful dancer who is “used by an evil cripple to entice men to their deaths.” The idea of the Dance of Death stretches back to the middle ages, but continues to have relevance and fascination today.

Find out more about this--and over 1,000 other works at the intersections of art and death--in the new book Death: A Graveside Companion by our founder Joanna Ebenstein. You can find out more--and order a copy of your own!--here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Morbid Anatomy News and Happenings: Book, Events, Utopia / Dystopia Series with Hauser and Wirth, and More!


Greetings!

We have lots of exciting news and events to announce today.

First up is the new book Death: A Graveside Companion, edited by Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein. This nearly 400 page book is packed with over 1,000 images (many never before published!) and 19 essays exploring the intersections of art and death. You can find out more about the book--or pre-order a copy--by clicking here.

We have organized a number of events to celebrate the book's release. The first will take place at London's Horse Hospital next Wednesday, October 18. This will consists of short talks by a number of contributors including John Troyer, Eleanor Crook and Mark Pilkington. Books will also be available at a discounted rate. Find out more--and get tickets--here.

We also have three book-related events taking place in New York City. The first is our official book release, taking the form of an all day symposium exploring the intersection of death and beauty with nearly a dozen short talks, screenings, and show and tells. It will take place in the historic chapel of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery on Saturday, October 28. Ticket price includes lunch, and books will be available at a special discounted rate. Green-Wood Cemetery. More (and tickets) here.

A few days later, on Wednesday, November 1 (Day of the dead!) the book's editor will present a selection of images relating to art and death followed by a conversation with Jennifer Wright, author of Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them at New York Public Library. This event is free, but advance registration is recommended; You can find out more (and reserve a ticket) here. The final event will be a a highly illustrated introduction to the ways in which humankind has imagined, come to terms with and even celebrated death at The Brooklyn Historical Society on Thursday, November 2; You can find out more (and get tickets) here.

Ebenstein will also be speaking at Maine's Bowdoin College Museum of Art on the topic of Death, Beauty and Metaphysics: Art, Science and Memento Mori in Early Anatomical Representation
on Thursday, November 9. This event is free and open to the public, and is produced in tandem with the current exhibition The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe. You can find out more here.

And finally, Morbid Anatomy is teaming up with Hauser and Wirth gallery in New York City for an event series entitled Utopia / Dystopia in which we will attempt to investigate, over 7 nights, the following questions, via a series of screenings, talks and presentations:
Is the yearning for a lost paradise a human universal? And is it always doomed to failure? In what ways do our attempts to create a paradise on earth backfire? Is there always, truly, a serpent in the garden?
The first night of this series will explore the seemingly paradoxical idea of Dystopian Amusements; it will take place on Wednesday October 25 and will feature short talks and screenings by writer Jane Rose, Morbid Anatomy founder (and former Coney Island Museum artist-in-residence) Joanna Ebenstein and filmmaker Ronni Thomas. The event is free, but must RSVP; You can find out more (and get tickets) here. 

Future events in the series will include a night devoted to Sexual Utopias with writer Asti Hustvedt, alchemist Brian Cotnoir, and sociologist Massimo Introvigne on Wednesday November 15, and Accidental Dystopia: El Helicoide – From Mall to Prison with Celeste Olalquiaga--author of The Artificial Kingdom--on Wednesday, December 6. More on those events when they go live.

Thanks for your support, and we hope very much to see you at one or more of these great events!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

As Far as the Eye Can Travel : A Miniature Photographic Cabinet of Curiosities by Chiara Ambrosio

Chiara Ambrosio--a good friend of Morbid Anatomy and a contributor to our recent Morbid Anatomy Anthology--has created a charming, miniature series of zines she describes as a "paper Wunderkammer."

More on this project, in her own words, below. For more information--or to get a copy for yourself-- click here. Questions or comments can be emailed to Chiara Ambrosio at chiaraambrosio [at] gmail [dot] com.
As Far As The Eye Can Travel is a paper Wunderkammer that gathers together geographies of the mind, topographies of the soul and physical excavations: curious chance encounters, moments of discovery, unexpected revelations that will surprise, enchant and spark uncharted flights of the imagination as far as the eye can--and will--travel. It is a magnifying glass through which to look at the real world anew and reveal all the magic and wonder that lies within it.

Published monthly, entirely handmade, and distributed through the post, these zines are a celebration of the small and near invisible: an archive of the incongruities, gestures and poetic collisions that illuminate and transform our reality, captured through the medium of photography and rendered as small pocket books that fit in the palm of your hand.

They are handmade talismans, amulets and portals: the captured images are given to the paper, transformed into charged objects that assist in an act of conjuring. They offer a way to challenge mainstream narratives, suggesting that meaningful and transformative events happen often unnoticed, and that through the act of paying attention to what is seemingly marginal, real change and revelation can occur. They are an act of commitment to the mystery of presence, a search for continuity within the cracks and the margins. 
As Far As The Eye Can Travel is an investigation into the medium of photography and its power to capture, translate and preserve a transient moment, a thought, an epiphany. They are an answer to the overwhelming daily deluge of digital images that often blinds us, and an attempt to re-engage with the act of looking as a radical form of commitment: each book, like a precious bottle of perfume, is a distilled essence of life, and it is the product of a patient, generous and hopeful form of engagement with the world.
Photography and the printed matter together can make us see and touch the world again, dispelling our feelings of loss and loneliness at the thought of a distant, removed and alienating reality. Watch it all bloom again, from seed into vigorous tree- an image, a single seed that yields endless stories, and invites you to contribute to the never-ending journey.

Seeing as a revolutionary act of resistance!

As Far As The Eye Can Travel is published monthly and sent in the post worldwide and is available through a yearly subscription. It is also available as yearly boxed sets that come in a handmade cardboard suitcase.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Day Long Symposium on Art and Death at Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, October 28

Attention New Yorkers: On Saturday, October 28, we will be hosting a day-long symposium dedicated to the intersections of art and death at Green-Wood Cemetery to celebrate the publication of Death: A Graveside Companion, edited by Morbid Anatomy creator Joanna Ebenstein. Tickets and more can be found here.

This book, published by Thames and Hudson, features over 1,000 images exploring humankind's imaginings of death, many largely unseen and drawn from The Richard Harris death collection. It also contains 19 essays by a variety of Morbid Anatomy regulars on a variety of art and death related topics.

Presenters--most of whom also contributed to the book--include medical historian Michael Sappol; Evan Michelson of Obscura Antiques and Oddities and TV's Oddities; hair artist and art historian Karen Bachmannn; filmmaker Eva Aridjis Porter; Ronni Thomas of the The Midnight Archive; photographer Shannon Taggart; Bruce Goldfarb of Baltimore’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer; Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier; and more. Talks, screenings, and show-and-tells will span the allure of Victorian hair art made to mourn the dead, Géricault's morgue paintings used as studies for the Raft of the Medusa, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, death in Mexico, photography of spirits after death, the surprising history of the guillotine, anatomical self identity, and much more.

Books will be available at a special discounted rate, lunch will be provided, and many contributors will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

There will also be an after party with music by Friese Undine and magic lantern projections by Joel Schlemowitz.

More and tickets here! Hope very much to see you there.

Above images: Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini, Cycle of Scenes of Living Skeletons, early 19th century. Painted for the Church of Santa Grata Inter Vites, Bergamo, Italy, for the Triduum of the dead. More in Death: A Graveside Companion, which can be preordered here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Huehue Dance of Puebla, Mexico


I stumbled across this dance--called The Huehue (or so a bemused resident explained)--on a recent trip to Puebla, Mexico. It said that one of the main characters of this dance is always the devil, as seen here. It is also said that the tradition has its roots in Day of The Dead, and depicts the wise old men--or huehues--who would help the newly widowed women find shelter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Niño del Consuelo, Figurine, Mexico City

This wonderful figurine, from Mexico City and sourced by our friend Daisy Tainton, depicts the miraculous Niño del Consuelo, or The Holy Child of Consolation. It is a copy of a miraculous 18th century statue in Chalma, Mexico.

This figure is best known as an advocate for children; when he grants a miracle on behalf of the child, offerings of toys or baby clothes are left in thanks.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Death: A Graveside Companion" New Art Book Exploring the Intersections of Death and Beauty



My new book Death: A Graveside Companion will be published by Thames and Hudson this October. A large scale picture book of nearly 400 pages, it contains over 1,000 images--many never before published, and largely drawn from the Richard Harris Art Collection--tracing humankind's attempts to imagine and that great, inevitable unknown mystery of human life: namely, death.

The book features 19 essays by a broad variety of thinkers that will be familar to readers of this blog, including Mel Gordon (author of Voluptuous Panic and Grand Guiginol), Michael Sappol (formerly of the National Library of Medicine), Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor, cultural critic Mark Dery, and John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society. Essays cover topics ranging from paintings created via channeling the spirits of the dead to eros and thanatos (sex and death) to 19th century horror theater to anatomized figures of Jesus Christ crafted for unknown purposes in 17th century Europe; See below for a full list of contributors and sessays.

To celebrate the book's release, wewill be two events, both of which will have copies of the book available at a special reduced rate, and many contributors on hand to deliver short talks and sign copies of the book.

In Brooklyn, New York on October 28, we hope you'll join us for a symposium devoted to the intersections of beauty and death at historic Green-Wood Cemetery. This day-long event will feature talks by Michael Sappol of the National Library of Medicine, Evan Michelson of The Morbid Anatomy Library and Obscura Antiques, filmmaker Eva Aridjis, photographer Shannon Taggart, Bruce Goldfarb of Baltimore’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer, Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier and more. Topics covered will include Victorian hair art and mourning culture, death in Mexico, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, spiritualism, medical models, and the history of the guillotine. Tickets--and more--here.

For those in the UK, we'll be hosting a night of short talks based on the essays in the book on October 18 at London's Horse Hospital. This event will feature talks by contributors such as Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor, anatomical sculptor Eleanor Crook, John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society, University of Birmingham's Lisa Downing, art historian Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca and Morbid Anatomy creator Joanna Ebenstein, and will span topics including as the intersections of eros and thanatos (sex and death), art channeled via the spirits of the dead, "anatomical expressionism," and enigmatic 17th century anatomized figures of Christ. Tickets--and more--can be foundhere.

More information about the book--which can now be pre-ordered here--follows below. You can also see a full list of upcoming events by clicking here.
Edited by Joanna Ebenstein, Foreword by Will Self
Featuring the Richard Harris Art Collection
Thames and Hudson, October 24, 2017
368 pages, 1,000 illustrations in color and black and white

The ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality, together with text by expert contributors
Coming October 24, the ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality along with insightful essays from expert contributors

A one-of-a-kind art history, DEATH: A Graveside Companion (Thames & Hudson, October 24, 2017) is a captivating treasury of images that serves as a testament to humanity’s quests—metaphysical, mythological, scientific, and popular—to imagine, respond to, and come to terms with our own inescapable end.

From the hour of death to the afterlife, seven themed chapters exhibit a staggering range of artworks, artifacts, trophies, and keepsakes from around the world and throughout the ages, counterbalanced by nineteen insightful essays, accessible yet scholarly, from contributors across a broad arc of disciplines and perspectives.

In catacombs, crypts, and bone-pits, readers will find reliquaries, embalmings, and mummies; see somber rites and customs morph into the celebrations of Halloween and Day of the Dead; and behold the great artistic traditions—Memento Mori, Vanitas, Danse Macabre—juxtaposed with vernacular tokens, found photography, and curios from bygone rituals in exotic lands. The majority of the images—which range from fine art to scientific illustration to pop culture ephemera—are drawn from the largely unseen collection of Richard Harris, who has amassed over 3,000 objects related to death.

“Today, it is deemed morbid to view images related to death or contemplate death,” says Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy, who edited DEATH: A Graveside Companion. “The abundance of images in this book proves that this attitude is by far the exception rather than the rule. This book, I hope, will help provide a balance in our one-sided view of death, in which we tend to avoid it or consider it impolite to speak about despite the fact that it will inevitably happen to each of us, and will restore these forgotten and reviled images to a place of dignity and appreciation as important artifacts of humankind’s attempts to make sense of its most profound mystery.”

Rich in never-before-published material, DEATH: A Graveside Companion is a book like no other, brimming with morbid inspiration and macabre insights to take to the grave.

About the Editor
Joanna Ebenstein is the founder of Morbid Anatomy and author of The Anatomical Venus.
EssaysDeath in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico, Eva Aridjis
The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry, Karen Bachmann
Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head, Laetitia Barbier
Anatomical Expressionism, Eleanor Crook
Poe and the Pathological Sublime, Mark Dery
Eros and Thanatos, Lisa Downing
Death-Themed Amusements, Joanna Ebenstein
The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Bruce Goldfarb
Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol, Mel Gordon
Holy Spiritualism, Elizabeth Harper
Playing Dead – A Gruesome  Form of Amusement, Mervyn Heard
The Anatomy of Holy Transformation, Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca
Collecting Death, Evan Michelson
Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton, Mark Pilkington
The Dance of Death, Kevin Pyle
Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation, Michael Sappol
Spiritualism and Photography, Shannon Taggart
Playing with Dead Faces, John Troyer
Anatomy Embellished in the Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch, Bert van de Roemer

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friendly Demons Frolic in a Satanic Farandole: Book Review of "Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut," by Jon Crabb for British Library Publishing

Below is a book review by Morbid Anatomy's Laetitia Barbier for the soon to be released Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut. All above images are drawn from the book; you can find out more about it--and order a copy of your own!--by clicking here.
- A donkey with binoculars reads the Bible to a crowd of tamed animals.
- Two bishops casually converse as hundreds of rats climb over them, some emerging from their sleeves.
- A coy sphinx pounces, bare breast first.
- Friendly demons frolic in a satanic farandole.
- A rat studies alchemical grimoires in the quiet study of a library.
- Drunk lions fist fight at the table of a tavern.

Although this aberrant enumeration could pass for, as the song goes, "a few of my favorite things," these visions are a few colorful examples drawn from Jon Crabb's incredible new book Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut, to be launched August 1by British Library Publishing.

Hundreds of woodcuts, which pages after pages let us time travel through the 16th and 17th century, when the printing process democratized, allowing knowledge, folklore and superstitions to circulate in every hands. These exquisite woodcuts exist in a grey area where dreams and nightmare mingle, a place in which humour, fear and mysticism seems to coexist without paradox. It's been a while I've not be stunned by so much fantasy, so much depravity. The book seems to be a series of flyers inviting you to "Party like its 1666". My only wish might be to have every single images of this book tattooed on my body, so if luck turned sour and I loose all by belonging, the tremendous joy I had to meet these creatures will be with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eulogy to The Morbid Anatomy Museum: Guest Post by Scholar in Residence Evan Michelson

Below is a lovely eulogy to the now sadly defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum by good friend, scholar in residence, collaborator, co-curator, partner in crime and board member Evan Michelson. It really captures the essence of what we were, from someone who was there from our inception as a tiny space at the no longer extant Proteus Gowanus to our grand Museum on the corner. The Museum could never have happened without her. RIP MAM!
The Morbid Anatomy Museum was a modest place. It was thrown together in a matter of months, on a shoestring budget, in a flurry of generous, well-meaning chaos. It all started with a spark between people who love ideas, and people who wanted to make those ideas manifest. From the little library in Proteus Gowanus to the big black box on the corner of Third Avenue, The Morbid Anatomy Museum was both inevitable and ephemeral.

The Museum rode the crest of a cultural wave - we were a part of the ascendence of weirdness, and the mainstream embrace of the culture of curiosity. Morbid Anatomy was a community that gathered regularly to celebrate those strange, liminal ideas that led to the unexpected places where death, beauty, science and spirit meet. We were a museum with a tiny permanent collection - our space was always meant to highlight the collections and obsessions of others. Artists, academics, rogue intellectuals, writers, thinkers, doers, collectors; all were welcome. Wanderers, fetishists, makers and itinerate thinkers (many impeccably dressed) found a home there as well. Plots were hatched, connections were made, classes were taught, lessons were learned. Most importantly, inspiration was generated and passed on from one synapse to another; we kept the collective mind humming. It was incredibly exciting to be a part of all that, and to watch it all unfold.

We were a somewhat ramshackle cultural institution. Our furniture was borrowed and snapped up as it was needed. We had a tiny staff who worked wonders and volunteers who kept us together. Aside from the lovely bare bones of the space (conceived of by architects generous with their time) the Museum was cobbled together by whatever means we had at our disposal at that moment. Morbid Anatomy was neither designed nor “envisioned." Our black box was not pre-planned, market-tested or audience-approved. There was no tasteful lighting, no wallpaper or carpeting. There was not a speck of luxury. The lecture space was a basement with a low ceiling where the rain sometimes crept in between the steel doors. It was cramped, and it overheated easily. It was anything but comfortable. But we gathered there for years, trudging through every kind of weather to hear what each other had to say. We stuffed animals in that room. We had flea markets and watched films. We had festivals, short lectures, mini concerts, readings and demonstrations. In that dark little basement we lighted each other’s way.

The Museum proper was one room and a tiny hallway. Our community filled it with strange and wonderful taxidermied beasts, antique anatomical waxes and Victorian hairwork. Rare books, magical contraptions, memorial objects, old photographs, ethnographic wonders and displays of unexpected and arcane objects - we made a place for them all. Curious items came, were admired, then made their way back to private places. The real beauty in that room happened when someone fell in love with something. The looks of wonder, delight, bafflement and surprise were themselves a wonder to behold. You could see the gears turning, you could watch ideas being generated and connections being made. It was exciting, it was an honor and a privilege to be a part of that, to help reveal what was formerly hidden.

And what people came! The famous, the celebrated, the relentlessly dedicated, the intrepid, the curious: everyone brought something to the table. People came from all over the world to our little museum because they’d heard that wonders resided there. Some were disappointed, it’s true, at the small scale of the place. Some were taken aback by how roug-hewn we were. The Morbid Anatomy Museum was neither slick nor cosmopolitan. That was never a part of the plan: we had the feel of a regional museum, presenting and protecting the legacy of obscure obsessives everywhere. Most visitors, however, came away with something they hadn’t expected: a newly-found appreciation for the decorative possibilities of human hair, or the perverse splendor of a kittens’ wedding. Most people got it.

Museums are places of inspiration - they are arks containing objects, ideas and cultures. Even the most humble roadside museum is a place of love, obsession and a desire to share and protect. The Morbid Anatomy Museum sought to preserve and nurture those objects, people and ideas that fell through the cracks of other museum collections. We sought to nurture something liminal and elusive. We curated the collective unconscious. It made for a tough tagline, it was difficult to define, it wasn’t pithy or easily-understood, but that was our mission and we stuck to it. In the end that was probably part of our undoing, but we succeeded in so many ways, and beyond all reason.

Ultimately, the Morbid Anatomy Museum was a community, international in scope. It was everyone who came through our doors, everyone who took classes, attended lectures and visited exhibitions. It was everyone who traveled with us overseas as well. It was everyone who generously gave of their time and expertise, who shared something invaluable, scarce and unfamiliar. It was a combined energy and passion, a love of the arcane and all the things that flutter around the edges. It was a love for and fascination with an unspoken and elusive commonality, tied up in strange objects and brilliant insights. Morbid Anatomy was all of us, together, endlessly fascinated.