Untold Bodies: Re-imagining the Natural History and Scientific Archive


Session Title:

  • Curating and Archiving New Media Art

Presentation Title:

  • Untold Bodies: Re-imagining the Natural History and Scientific Archive




  • Untold Bodies examines the themes of retrieval and digital resurrection – bringing to light and into the light the objects, specimens and narratives previously hidden in dispersed archives and museum research databanks. This visual presentation is based on recent art/science collaborations and artist-in-residency exhibition projects with natural history and medical museums in Ireland, Italy. USA and the Netherlands/Sweden. It addresses the practice-based research concerns, the creative imaging processes involved, the institutional challenges encountered and the outcomes and new audiences for these projects. The work primarily focuses on collections in laboratories and public museums dating from the late nineteenth century to the present of fluid-preserved human and animal taxidermy specimens.

    Central to this, is an examination of the aesthetic codes, display conventions and object-based epistemology inherent in these late nineteenth century museums, the communication challenges and fears faced by these institutions in embracing new audiences with new media strategies, allied to the sometimes entrenched curatorial practices and financial restraints that limit the opening up and uncontrolled distribution of imaged archival material beyond the institutional site. Untold Bodies takes as its content my recent collaborations and exhibition projects that aim to re-present and re-purpose historic content, at times uncovering the hidden histories stored off-stage, or re-staging the familiar displays for a new audience and context.

    The presentation includes images and video from lens based projects with the following institutions: La Specola, Caregi Hospital, Florence, Italy (Still Life); Hubrecht Laboratory, Utrecht, Netherlands & Tornblad Institute, Lund, Sweden (Future Nature); Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, USA (Vial Memory); Natural History Museum, Dublin, Ireland (Dignified Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Silk).

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