MARK DION & DAVID LANG
ALIXA GAGE ENGLUND
PEOBODY SOUTHWELL, MARC KUDISCH, ROBERT OSBORNE, TIMUR
Based on texts from the 18th century, Anatomy Theater follows the progression of an English murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection, including an anatomy lesson for curious onlookers.
Before medicine offered a better understanding of the physical body, the corpus was seen as the manifestation of the spiritual. In 18th century England, traveling specialists would tour from town to town producing a “moral spectacle,” in which the bodies of executed criminals would be dissected in front of a paying audience, with food and drink served and musicians playing. These were not scientific events, but spiritual carnivals, in which evidence of corruption was sought and uncovered in the interiors of the human body.
As portrayed in paintings and lithographs of Hogarth, these were essentially joyous affairs, the macabre overtones suffused with a bourgeois sense of complacence and order. The dissections were voyeuristic, reinforcing the social differences between the audience and the criminal. They also contained the notion that the struggle between good and evil would have its results written within the human body itself.
Anatomy Theater is a contemporary reflection on this historical spiritual carnival. It is a moral dissection, with images of bodies and environments projected on scrims, 4 singers – a lecturer, a demonstrator, the caretaker of the anatomy hall, and the corpse itself – 9 musicians and a text drawn from surviving documents and period moral tracts.
Commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, Ridge Theater, Justus & Helen Schlichting, Linda & Stuart Nelson, Paul King, and Marla & Chris Ahearn. Additional commissioning support provided by BRIC, Nancy & Barry Sanders, and Miles & Joni Benickes. Funded, in part, by an award from The National Endowment for the Arts – Art Works, and by public funds from The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding was provided by the MAP Fund, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, and New Music USA.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council
"Gruesome and fascinating"
“Perhaps the greatest subversive achievement of “anatomy theater” is that it entertains even as you know full well that something is very wrong with this picture.”
“Lang, once a post-minimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master."
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