Enclosed in glass and then again in glass vitrines, the specimen for the scientist stabs brutally at objectivity. In a zone of ambiguity, bodies and parts float anonymously as relics retelling historical time. In an ocular joust, the observer dons a pose, as details of the gaze come into focus. Thoughts of definition enter and exit the observer's consciousness until some determination of meaning is arrived at. What questions are provoked by this once living matter? To go behind a veil is to transgress a hidden boundary. At the same time the veil becomes a mirror of our hidden selves, as we try to peek behind the curtain of unknowable worlds.
The Glass Veil, an installation by Suzanne Anker, in the Ruine des Rudolf-Virchow-Hörsaals of the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum
pays homage to medicine's historical past. Destroyed toward the end of WWII by bombing, after the war, the building was refitted with a roof and windows. Since the middle of the 1990s the "preserved" Ruine has been used for art exhibitions, conferences and scientific exchange.
For The Glass Veil, Anker has installed twenty four upside down parachutes that float within the aerial space of this Ruine. Accompanied by both large and small scale photographs of specimens from the museum's collection: a brain, a fetus, a stomach and other human remains enclosed in glass, Anker employs these specimens to question the viewer's somatic gaze. What emotions, fleeting or otherwise are invoked by gazing at preserved flesh? What are the differences between a clinical appreciation of these artifacts and an inter-subjective one?
Suzanne Anker's exhibition opens in conjunction with the international conference Habitus in Habitat: Emotion and Motion (organized by Sabine Flach) at the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité, in co-operation with the Zentrum für Literatur-und Kulturforschung Berlin and the Berlin School of Mind and Brain.
Suzanne Anker is a New York based artist working at the intersection of visual art and the biological sciences. Other recent projects include The Hothouse Archives at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin, Corpus Extremus+ at Exit Art in NYC and sculptural project for the upcoming INSIDE [art and science], all in 2009.