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The Glass Veil: Seven Adventures in Wonderland

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Suzanne Anker and Sabine Flach

In this collaborative work between artist and theorist Suzanne Anker and art historian Sabine Flach, the study of image production unveils the reality of pictures beyond their function as mere representations of the world. The visuals range from firsthand accounts of specimen collections in historical medical museums, to scientific research laboratories, to studies of plant propagation, among other themes concerning life forms and Bio Art. Focusing on systems of artistic knowledge, the authors demonstrate how context, scale and framing devices alter meaning in pictorial systems. Somatic responses, classification networks and image banks are explored as they relate to intersections in visual art and the biological sciences.

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2. Dialogues

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Figure 18. Left: Suzanne Anker, The Glass Veil (The Center of Gravity), 2009. Nylon, bungee cord, silver leaf, lead and brass. Right: Suzanne Anker, The Glass Veil (The Hand-Mirror), 2009. Inkjet print on sintra, 76 x 96 in (193 x 243.8 cm). Installation view of The Glass Veil at Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité, Berlin, Germany, 2009. Photograph by Suzanne Anker. 70 71Dialogue I: The Glass Veil 73 Dialogue I: The Glass Veil Suzanne Anker & Sabine Flach Sabine Flach: In The Glass Veil project (fig. 18) as well as other work, you employ objects, materials and topics that are already given. In other words, the subjects of your work previously exist, in other spaces and for alternate reasons. In essence, you are not the absolute provenance of your images. Could you describe how you see your work with regard to such matters? Suzanne Anker: Suspended in liquid-filled vessels and aligned as a display, human specimens in medical museums are, readymade sources of wonder. Within the genre of nature morte, these photographs spotlight various visual perspectives and illuminating reflections. I look for germane details, particulars which had not been accounted for by the museum curators or staff. For example, in The Hand-Mirror (fig. 19), traces of human fingerprints mark the cases’ transparent surface. There are also “swish” marks left behind by the janitor’s hand movements during the process of cleaning the façade. These on-site artifacts alter the meanings of the long-established arrays of specimens. When such residua are...

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