SARAH OSBORNE (convicted murderess, later corpse): Mezzo-soprano
JOSHUA CROUCH (caretaker of the dissection theater): Baritone
BARON PEEL (anatomist and moral lecturer): Bass
AMBROSE STRANG (the anatomist's young assistant): Tenor
|David Lang discusses 'anatomy theater'|
is about the human body — its inside, to be specific. In fact, anatomy theater
questions the history of a kind of human meaning: what is the historic relationship between the spiritual and the physical interiors of a person? Before science the physical body was seen as the manifestation of the spiritual. The scientific dissection of people is a relatively recent phenomenon, but the insides of people have been examined for other purposes throughout history. For example, in certain parts of pre-modern Europe traveling specialists would tour from town to town and produce a kind of moral spectacle, in which the corpses 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. These were essentially joyous affairs — a bit grisly but suffused with a bourgeois sense of complacence and order. The dissections were essentially voyeuristic — they are more about reinforcing the social differences between the audience and the criminal than they are about the pursuit of any kind of useful knowledge. They also contain the notion that the struggle between good and evil would have its results written within the human body. This is a very beautiful idea.
is our own version of such a spiritual carnival. We propose to create a moral dissection, with images of bodies and environments projected on scrims, 3 singers — a lecturer, a demonstrator, and the corpse itself — 3 musicians and a text drawn from surviving documents and contemporary moral tracts.
— David Lang