Imaging the dead: the cadaver in western culture and contemporary art

2017-02-15T05:05:45Z (GMT) by Ryan, Natalie Elise
In its present form and throughout Western civilization, capturing the image of the cadaver, whether it be objectified in the Museum, immortalised in mementos or adorned in bereavement rituals, has been a process that clearly relies on the aesthetic methodologies of the artist. Either employing artisans or referencing historical artistic techniques, the presentation of the cadaver and art has been inseparable. It is therefore not surprising that the cadaver has found its way into contemporary art and an exchange of knowledge and ideas between the artist and these faculties, between preservation and display has occurred. This research project examines how the animal and human cadaver has been imaged in a number of these paradigms and how this has created a controlled viewing of the dead body that either objectifies or immortalises the corpse. I will then explore the relationship between this existing imagery and how it has been subverted in contemporary art. I will investigate how contemporary art is able to bring to the fore important discourse on the subject of death and philosophical readings of the dead body as an image. My studio research investigates these preservation and display techniques, imaging the dead, in an attempt to create new readings of the cadaver.