Tuesday, 18 October 2011

200words: hunterian museum

"...bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.." Ezekiel 37:8

A museum of a museum, a remembrance of a remembrance of things past. An aptly cold interior celebrating the birth of the clinical existence we now enjoy. And aptly bulletproof display casing for the Glass Menagerie our contemporary self-understanding clings to. We cling to this understanding: that the age of naïve surgery and capital punishment and surgical errors, is behind us: we live in the future now.

The too crisp effect, the needles of light, the clumsy perspex labelling stand cautiously at odds with that fascinated time, when everything was new, dangerous and undiscovered, when in warm wooden galleries, handmade specimens, held in handmade jars were handled by bold adventurers, daring in their enfleshed embodiment. Could they but see us now, all blanched bodies in glass postwar reconstructions.

This Pandora's cabinet of curios presents at least two difficulties, and does so frankly: the category of the 'freak' and the death of the deserving criminal. Architecturally, designers can navigate these by irony or fastidious neutrality: the grey of this exhibit is to cover our shame.



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