Activity 4. Body as media and message

Body as Media and Message

Why are the anatomical studies of Andreas Vesalius and the curious arrangements of Frederik Ruysch displayed in classical poses: 'prettily and naturally'? Why bother with beautiful drawings to illustrate the charts of Acupuncture, Zodiac and Kundalini man? Why do we sometimes seek to sanitise the gruesome and make the ordinary sensational?

Everyone's a Freak

What makes a Freak a Freak? Physical form, extraordinary physical ability, social surroundings or the cultural framework and aesthetic preferences of the society in which she or he lives? Turn yourself into a Freak by exaggerating a physical feature or a unique ability? Advertise your sensational uniqueness on a poster, put on a performance, or try to attract an audience by bellowing the ultimate sales pitch. Can you make people believe that you are unique in your looks or abilities simply by stating that you are? How do you make the normal abnormal?

Cabinets of Curiosities

What is so attractive about similarity? About difference? About the New? Look at the images by Frederik Ruysch and conduct your own research into the enlightenment phenomenon: Cabinets of Curiosities. Consider their purpose and how their content and displays may have reflected concurrent scientific or technological developments, as well as general likes and interests. Create your own Cabinet of Contemporary Wonder that contains what today is exceptional and rare. What do you include: objects relating to the body; specimens, models or images; prosthetic limbs or cosmetic implants; or other extraordiray objects such technologies, kitsch trinkets, unidentifiable found objects? What stories do the Cabinets tell about medical science and cultural dogmas, and what do they reveal about you as the creators?

Body as Edutainment

Looking at Frederik Ruysch's displays and the Freak Show consider if, how and why difference, novelty or sensation can work as entertainment, and entertainment as education? Will the things that are novel and shocking today still cause a sensation tomorrow?

Look further towards contemporary media campaigns relating to, or using, different aspects of the bodies and our understanding of the body. Create your own campaign to voice an opinion of the ideal body, physical or spiritual. Think about how you can attract an audience and make them pay attention. Which media will you use and will you employ reason and fact or sensational tactics to convince or seduce others to your way of thinking, your product and your message? Present your campaigns across the class or school. Stage a debate that reflects on their potential effectiveness and simultaneously considers how you feel about being confronted with -- and perhaps seduced by -- current media campaigns and their visual and literal images of the body?