Monday, March 2, 2015

The Phantasmagoria: An Ancestry Of Fear : Guest Post and New Film by Film Maker in Residence Ronni Thomas


Below, film maker in residence Ronni Thomas--director of The Midnight Archive--explains his attraction to 18th century phantasmagoria magic lantern shows, as explored in his first "Morbid Anatomy Presents" film, starring Mervyn Heard, author, of Phantasmagoria: The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern. You can view the film above; Stay tuned for more episodes which will premiere monthly on our new You Tube channel, which can be found here! P.S.  Happy Birthday, Mervyn Heard!
I confess... In fact, I am proud to admit... When the lights go out, and my family are all safely tucked away to sleep, I scour the internet endlessly searching, in the dark, for... scary videos (what will the neighbors think?). In fact, ever since I was able to change the channel, I would click through ways to put myself through some sort of emotional torment. From 80s slasher flicks, to stories of demonic possession, to forcing myself to go into my basement with all the lights off to find the boogeyman  -I was obsessed with trying to amuse myself with fear as both the protagonist and antagonist. And apparently I was a member of a historical legacy of fear-seekers...
It may surprise you (though it doesn't surprise me), that our ancestors were as addicted to terrifying themselves as we are here in the "enlightened" age. In this film, Mervyn Heard, a historian of the 'Magic Lantern', tells us about the Phantasmagoria shows of the early 1800s. Our 200 year old ancestors would subject themselves to total darkness, floating skeletons and demons, drugs, electrical stimuli and many more sensory abuses, all for a cheap thrill. Preceding cinema by almost 100 years and serving as some of the earliest form of stage magic, the Phantasmagoria shows set out to not only bewilder audiences, but to terrify them, and in big style. Why do we consistently seek out ways to put ourselves through some sort of existential hell? Perhaps, the thrill of fear, is a necessary part of our emotional evolution... Or, perhaps we just like a good scare! The film is the first of the new Morbid Anatomy Museum Presents film series.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Morbid Anatomy Museum Presents Film Series! Gala Tickets on Sale! Erotomania in the 19th Century! Memento Mori with Paul Koudounaris! Upcoming Morbid Anatomy Events

Tickets are now available for our first Annual Morbid Anatomy Museum Gala with honorary chair Chloë Sevigny, sponsored by Hendrick's Gin and Six Point Beer! Space for this event is extremely limited, so if you are interested in attending, we highly recommend getting tickets as soon as possible. You can do so--and find out more--here.

We also have scores of other wonderful upcoming events including a free party celebrating the release of Memento Mori, the new book by Paul Koudounaris, author/photographer behind Empire of Death (Saturday, May 9; more here); a night devoted of "transi," or carved cadaver sculptures with Dr. Christina Welch, senior lecturer at the University of Winchester (Thursday, May 7th; more here) and a new date for the American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015 An Illustrated Lecture with Anni Irish (Tuesday, May 12th; more here).

We are also beyond delighted to announce that our esteemed filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas--director of the critically acclaimed Midnight Archive--has created a new series of short films under the banner of "Morbid Anatomy Museum Presents." Episodes, produced in tandem with the Morbid Anatomy Museum, will cover such topics as reliquaries and Victorian hairwork, The Maimonides Dream telepathy Lab, and Spirit Communication devices. You can see the first episode--devoted to 18th century Parisian Phantasmagoria ‘ghost’ shows with Magic Lantern expert Mervyn Heard, author, of Phantasmagoria: The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern--on our new You Tube channel by clicking here. Stay tuned for more episodes which will premiere monthly!
 
We at Morbid Anatomy strive to keep our programming and exhibitions affordable. If you like what we do, please consider becoming a member (with all that entails) and get limited edition perks such as as a signed and numbered print by Mark Dion; a private party at The Morbid Anatomy Museum; a special backstage tour of Philadelphia's incomparable Mütter Museum with curator Anna Dhody; and a limited edition archival photo print of the Child's Chapel in the Palermo Catacombs; you can find out more here.

IMMEDIATELY UPCOMING EVENTS
  • Ethel Spector Person: Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sex, Power and Gender: An Illustrated Lecture with Jennifer McGillan, Archivist at the Augustus C. Long Library of Columbia University Medical Center
    Tuesday, March 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday, March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Cute and Creepy: A History of the Grotesque in Art: Illustrated lecture with Art Critic and Author Nancy Hightower 
    Thursday, March 5th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
NEWLY ANNOUNCED
  • Guerilla Science presents Sensory Speed Dating
    Saturday, April 4th, 8pm, $24 for 2 persons, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Memento Mori: Book Launch and Lecture with Paul Koudounaris
    Saturday, May 9th, 8pm, FREE (limited seating), more info here 
  • Anatomy, Religion, and English Late-Medieval Carved Cadaver Sculptures with Dr. Christina Welch, senior lecturer at the University of Winchester, UK
    Thursday, May 7th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
     
  • The American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015 An Illustrated Lecture with Anni Irish
    Tuesday, May 12th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
  • Tickets NOW AVAILABLE for First Annual Morbid Anatomy Museum Gala with Honorary Chair Chloë Sevigny Sponsored by Hendrick's Gin and Six Point Beer
    Tuesday, April 21, 6:30 pm, Tickets: $250/$500, Tickets and more
    here 
ALL UPCOMING EVENTS
  • Ethel Spector Person: Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sex, Power and Gender: An Illustrated Lecture with Jennifer McGillan, Archivist at the Augustus C. Long Library of Columbia University Medical Center
    Tuesday, March 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Cute and Creepy: A History of the Grotesque in Art: Illustrated lecture with Art Critic and Author Nancy Hightower
    Thursday, March 5th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
  • The Art of Death: An Evening of Drawing and Drinking at Morbid Anatomy  Monday, March 9th, 8pm - 10pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Warren Anatomical Museum and the 19th Century American Anatomy Museum, An Illustrated Lecture with Dominic Hall, curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum.  Friday, March 13th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Morbid Anatomy Spring Flea Market! 
    Sunday, March 15th, 12pm - 6pm, more info 
    here
  • Experimenting with Death: An Introduction to the Terror Management Theory of Human Behavior: An Illustrated Lecture with Social Psychologist Michael Johns
    Wednesday, March 18th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
  • Whimsical Taxidermy in 19th Century Design: An Illustrated Lecture and Show and Tell with John Whiteknight, author Under Glass, introduced and Moderated by Melissa Milgrom, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
    Thursday, March 19th, 8:00 PM, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence
    Saturday, March 21st, 12pm – 5pm, $110 one headed/$125 two headed, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Mammal Heads Taxidermy Class with Katie InnamoratoSunday, March 22nd, 12pm - 6pm, $400, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Ladies and Demons in Fifteenth-Century Rome with Suzanne Scanlan, RISD 
    Tuesday, March 24th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Anomalous Music: Music from The Ultraterrestrials: Part I of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, March 25th, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Saws, Specula and Surgical Instruments: The Absurd and Disturbing World of Biomedical Patents: An Illustrated Lecture with Eric "Indin" Bleich, Registered Patent Attorney
    Thursday, March 26th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Shrunken Heads, Enchanted Amulets, and Pickled Penises: Victorian Anthropology and the Collections of Augustus Pitt Rivers: An Illustrated Lecture with Dr. Maeve Adams, Manhattan College
    This event is sponsored by--and drinks provided by--
    The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
    Friday, March 27th, 8pm, $10, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Fancy Pigeon Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence Saturday, March 28th, 12 to 6pm, $275, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Collector's Cabinet Closing Party with collector's show and tell and Morbid Anatomy Presents film series launch party, with filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas  Sunday, March 29th, 7pm, $15 for Members, $25 for Non-Members, Tickets (and more info) here
  • From Deadly Venom to Delightful Drugs in the Predatory Sea Snail. An Illustrated Lecture with Dr. Mande Holdford, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at Hunter College Thursday, March 31, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anomalous Music: Music from the Occult: Part II of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, April 1st, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Medical History Theater 3000: Historical Medical Film Screening and Presentation with Michael Sappol, Historian, History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine 
    Friday, April 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
  • Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Workshop with Daisy Tainton
    Saturday, April 4th, 1 – 4 PM, $75, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Guerilla Science presents Sensory Speed Dating
    Saturday, April 4th, 8pm, $24 for 2 persons, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anomalous Music: A Collection of Curiosities: Part III of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, April 8th, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Starling Taxidermy Class with Katie Innamorato  Sunday, April 12th, 12pm - 7pm, $275, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Svengali, and the Sexual Anxieties of the Anti-Semite: 16 mm Screening, with a short introduction by Filmmaker Joel Schlemowitz as well as Trilby-themed cocktails and pre- and post-screening 78 records on the Victrola 
    Tuesday, April 14th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Anthropomorphic Rabbit Taxidermy Class with Divya AnantharamanSaturday, April 18th, 12pm - 6pm, $300, Ticket (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman  Sunday, April 19th, 12pm - 6pm, $110.00 (one-headed) / $125.00 (two-headed), Tickets and info here
  • First Annual Morbid Anatomy Museum Gala with Honorary Chair Chloë Sevigny  Sponsored by Hendrick's Gin and Six Point Beer
    Tuesday, April 21, 6:30 pm, Tickets: $250/$500, Tickets and more here
     
  • Philadelphia Field Trip: Save the Date
    April 25; more info soon! 
  • Shocked and Amazed: The Unseen Footage with Jeff Krulik, director of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"
    Tuesday, April 28th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here
     
  • Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
    Saturday, May 2nd, 11 – 6 PM, $150 (Includes admission to The Morbid Anatomy Museum), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
     
  • Anatomy, Religion, and English Late-Medieval Carved Cadaver Sculptures with Dr. Christina Welch, senior lecturer at the University of Winchester, UK
    Thursday, May 7th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
     
  • Memento Mori: Book Launch and Lecture with Paul Koudounaris
    Saturday, May 9th, 8pm, FREE (limited seating), more info here 
  • The American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015 An Illustrated Lecture with Anni Irish
    Tuesday, May 12th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info 
    here
  • Amsterdam Anatomy Weekend at the Vrolik Museum Save the Date
    Friday, May 15 - Sunday, May 17th at Amsterdam's
    Vrolik Museum; More here

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shrunken Heads and Enchanted Amulets at the Pitt Rivers Museum! "Anomalous Music" Series with Doug Skinner! Philadelphia Field Trip! This Week and Beyond at Morbid Anatomy

Hope to see you at one of our excellent events taking place in the days and weeks to come!

A few highlights include a newly announced 3-part series devoted to "Anomalous Music" with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart. This will be three nights including Music from The Ultraterrestrials, featuring music attributed to fairies and aliens and collected from seances and channeling (Wednesday, March 25th); Music from the Occult, featuring music from alchemists, cults and secret societies (Wednesday, April 1st) and A Collection of Curiosities, featuring musical codes, the musical language of Solrésol, Lewis Carroll's compositions, and more. (Wednesday, April 8th). You can find out about all of them here; a three lecture/concert pass is also available.

Also of note: on April 25, we will embark on special Morbid Anatomy field trip to Philadelphia with stops including the Wagner Free Institute and tour guide Lord Whimsy; more on that soon!

Other events include our newly announced Shrunken Heads, Enchanted Amulets, and Pickled Penises: Victorian Anthropology and the Collections of Augustus Pitt Rivers with with Dr. Maeve Adams, Manhattan College sponsored by--and with drinks provided by--The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (Friday, March 27th;  more info here); this Tuesday's Mouse Muse, exploring the mouse in art (more here) and Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters with Alexis Coe, author of Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis (Wednesday, March 4th, more here).

Also, please note that this Wednesday--February 25th--the entire museum will be closed for a private event. 

We at Morbid Anatomy strive to keep our programming and exhibitions affordable. If you like what we do, please consider becoming a member (with all that entails) by clicking here, or making a tax deductible donations via our fiscal sponsor Brooklyn Arts Council here.

On that note, to make becoming a member even more attractive, we have added variety of short time, limited edition perks including as a signed and numbered "Morbid Anatomy Museum" print by Mark Dion; a private party and tour at The Morbid Anatomy Museum; a special backstage tour of Philadelphia's incomparable Mütter Museum with curator Anna Dhody; and a limited edition archival photo print of the Child's Chapel in the Palermo Catacombs; you can find out more here.



IMMEDIATELY UPCOMING EVENTS
  • Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art: An Illustrated lecture with Lorna Owen, author of "Mouse Muse"Tuesday, February 24th,  8pm $5, Tickets (and more info) here 

  • ALERT: ENTIRE MUSEUM CLOSED FOR PRIVATE EVENT ALL DAYWednesday, February 25th ALL DAY
  • YOLO, or The Sting of Death and the Value of Life: An Illustrated Lecture by Ian Olasov, Brooklyn College
    Thursday, February 26th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here 
  • Ethel Spector Person: Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sex, Power and Gender: An Illustrated Lecture with Jennifer McGillan, Archivist at the Augustus C. Long Library of Columbia University Medical Center
    Tuesday, March 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Cute and Creepy: A History of the Grotesque in Art: Illustrated lecture with Art Critic and Author Nancy Hightower
    Thursday, March 5th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info her
    e


NEWLY ANNOUNCED EVENTS
  • Anomalous Music: Music from The Ultraterrestrials: Part I of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, March 25th, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass)
    , Tickets (and more info) here
     
  • Shrunken Heads, Enchanted Amulets, and Pickled Penises: Victorian Anthropology and the Collections of Augustus Pitt Rivers: An Illustrated Lecture with Dr. Maeve Adams, Manhattan College
    This event is sponsored by--and drinks provided by--The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
    Friday, March 27th, 8pm, $10
    , Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anomalous Music: Music from the Occult: Part II of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, April 1st, 8pm,
    $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass), Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Workshop with Daisy Tainton
    Saturday, April 4th, 1 – 4 PM, $75,
    Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anomalous Music: A Collection of Curiosities: Part III of Anomalous Music: A Three Part Series with Doug Skinner, presented by Shannon Taggart, Morbid Anatomy Museum Programmer in Residence
    Wednesday, April 8th,
    8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lecture/ Concert Pass), Tickets (and more info) here
     
  • Philadelphia Field Trip: Save the Date
    April 25; more info soon!
     
  • Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
    Saturday, May 2nd, 11 – 6 PM, $150 (Includes admission to The Morbid Anatomy Museum)
    , Tickets (and more info) here


ALL UPCOMING EVENTS
  • Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art: An Illustrated lecture with Lorna Owen, author of "Mouse Muse"
    Tuesday, February 24th,  8pm $5,
    Tickets (and more info) here
  • ALERT: ENTIRE MUSEUM CLOSED FOR PRIVATE EVENT ALL DAY
    Wednesday, February 25th ALL DAY

  • YOLO, or The Sting of Death and the Value of Life: An Illustrated Lecture by Ian Olasov, Brooklyn College
    Thursday, February 26th, 8pm, $8
    , Tickets and info here
     
  • Ethel Spector Person: Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sex, Power and Gender: An Illustrated Lecture with Jennifer McGillan, Archivist at the Augustus C. Long Library of Columbia University Medical Center
    Tuesday, March 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Cute and Creepy: A History of the Grotesque in Art: Illustrated lecture with Art Critic and Author Nancy Hightower
    Thursday, March 5th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info her
    e
  • The Art of Death: An Evening of Drawing and Drinking at Morbid Anatomy 
    Monday, March 9th, 8pm - 10pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Warren Anatomical Museum and the 19th Century American Anatomy Museum, An Illustrated Lecture with Dominic Hall, curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum. 
    Friday, March 13th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Morbid Anatomy Spring Flea Market! 
    Sunday, March 15th, 12pm - 6pm, more info here
  • Experimenting with Death: An Introduction to the Terror Management Theory of Human Behavior: An Illustrated Lecture with Social Psychologist Michael Johns
    Wednesday, March 18th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here

  • Whimsical Taxidermy in 19th Century Design: An Illustrated Lecture and Show and Tell with John Whiteknight, author Under Glass, introduced and Moderated by Melissa Milgrom, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
    Thursday, March 19th, 8:00 PM, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence
    Saturday, March 21st, 12pm – 5pm, $110 one headed/$125 two headed, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Mammal Heads Taxidermy Class with Katie Innamorato. 
    Sunday, March 22nd, 12pm - 6pm, $400, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Ladies and Demons in Fifteenth-Century Rome with Suzanne Scanlan, RISD 
    Tuesday, March 24th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Saws, Specula and Surgical Instruments: The Absurd and Disturbing World of Biomedical Patents: An Illustrated Lecture with Eric "Indin" Bleich, Registered Patent Attorney
    Thursday, March 26th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Fancy Pigeon Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence
    Saturday, March 28th, 12 to 6pm, $275, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Collector's Cabinet Closing Party with collector's show and tell and Morbid Anatomy Presents film series launch party, with filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas 
    Sunday, March 29th, 7pm, $15 for Members, $25 for Non-Members, Tickets (and more info) here
  • From Deadly Venom to Delightful Drugs in the Predatory Sea Snail. An Illustrated Lecture with Dr. Mande Holdford, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at Hunter College
    Thursday, March 31, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Medical History Theater 3000: Historical Medical Film Screening and Presentation with Michael Sappol, Historian, History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine 
    Friday, April 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here
  • Starling Taxidermy Class with Katie Innamorato Sunday, April 12th, 12pm - 7pm, $275, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Svengali, and the Sexual Anxieties of the Anti-Semite: 16 mm Screening, with a short introduction by Filmmaker Joel Schlemowitz as well as Trilby-themed cocktails and pre- and post-screening 78 records on the Victrola 
    Tuesday, April 14th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Rabbit Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman. 
    Saturday, April 18th, 12pm - 6pm, $300, Ticket (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman 
    Sunday, April 19th, 12pm - 6pm, $110.00 (one-headed) / $125.00 (two-headed), Tickets and info here
  • First Annual Morbid Anatomy Museum Gala with Honorary Chair Chloë Sevigny: Save the Date
    Tuesday, April 21, 7:30 pm. More here
  • Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
    Sunday, April 26th, 11am - 6pm, $150 and includes admission to the Morbid Anatomy Museum, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Shocked and Amazed: The Unseen Footage with Jeff Krulik, director of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"
    Tuesday, April 28th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Amsterdam Anatomy Weekend at the Vrolik Museum Save the Date
    Friday, May 15 - Sunday, May 17th at Amsterdam's Vrolik Museum; More here 
Image: The Pitt Rivers Musuem, Oxford, England. More here. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

ALERT: Tonight's American Tattooed Ladies Lecture Cancelled!

Please accept our sincere apologies, but tonight's American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015 lecture with Anni Irish is being postponed due to an illness on the part of the presenter. Stay tuned for new date very soon, and stay warm!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Ash Wedesday, Where the Tradition of Memento Mori Continues Unabated

Happy Ash Wednesday! The following quote, from "The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday" By Dr. Richard P. Bucher, makes clear the relationship between traditional memento mori and the Ash Wednesday tradition of ashes on the forehead:
In the typical Ash Wednesday observance, Christians are invited to the altar to receive the imposition of ashes, prior to receiving the holy Supper. The Pastor applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each, while speaking the words, "For dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This is of course what God spoke to Adam and Eve after they eaten of the forbidden fruit and fallen into sin. These words indicated to our first parents the bitterest fruit of their sin, namely death. In the context of the Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes, they remind each penitent of their sinfulness and mortality, and, thus, their need to repent and get right with God before it is too late...
--The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday, By Dr. Richard P. Bucher (sourced here)
Image: Rattenberg (Tyrol). Augustine museum - Memento-mori-painting (1694) from Kitzbühl - detail with inscription: "All skulls are signed but one; write your name on it, it is yours." Sourced here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Return of the Repressed: Sick Humor from Both Sides of the Atlantic: Guest Post by A.J. Mell


Following is a guest post by Morbid Anatomy Museum A.J. Mell docent on the mid-20th century phenomenon of "sick humor," as inspired by The Penguin Book of Sick Verse, a book which he suggested for (and which now resides in) the Morbid Anatomy Library. Hope you enjoy!
The Return of the Repressed: Sick Humor from Both Sides of the Atlantic
By A.J. Mell

Among the obscure jewels to be found in the Morbid Anatomy Library is The Penguin Book of Sick Verse, a British poetry anthology which never came out in America and hasn’t been reissued since its publication in 1963.

I first learned about it through a passing reference in Rob Young’s history of the British folk-rock movement, Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (Faber and Faber, 2011). Apparently the collection was a favorite of Fairport Convention founder Richard Thompson, whose own mordant lyrics might fit nicely into an updated edition. (He also set music to one of the book’s offerings, George Painter’s “The Lobster,” which appears on Fairport’s eponymous debut album.) Inspired by the irresistible title and the imprimatur of one of my musical heroes, I sought the book out online and found a well-seasoned but readable copy for about fifteen bucks. 
How sick is it? Well, rather than quote specific poems, I’ll list some favorite entries from the index of first lines, to give an idea of the tone:
A ghost of a mouldy larder is one thing
Ah, dog. Here is my boot. Does it stink good?
I shall never get out of this! There are two of me now
In sad and ashie weeds I sigh
Inert in his chair
It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange
Last night, on coughing slightly with sharp pain
My head is bald, my breath is bad
O hideous little bat, the size of snot
Sometimes just being alone seems the bad thing
The mad girl with the staring eyes and long white fingers
When I died the devils tortured me with icepicks and pliers 
And so on. The book contains no poems in translation, so seemingly obvious candidates like Baudelaire make no appearance, but editor George MacBeth drew broadly and deeply from the miasmic corners of British and American literature with satisfying results. The collection spans the Elizabethan era to the mid-20th century, and is helpfully arranged into eight sections: Illness, Mental Breakdown, Visions of Doom, World-Weariness, Corpse Love, Lovesickness, Cruelty, and Sick Jokes. “What some have called a fascination with obscenity or disaster,” MacBeth writes in his introduction, “may only be a wise foresight, an anxiety to know the worst, an eagerness to explore the most exquisite and the most intense. The extreme situation can be terrible in the form of love; but it can also be a source of wisdom in the form of terror.” Relatively little light verse or scurrilous doggerel finds its way into these pages; the emphasis is on Quality Lit, and venerable names like Auden, Blake, Marlowe, Poe, Shelley and Wilde. Among MacBeth’s contemporaries, he saw fit to include Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and a smattering of others.

I am only an occasional poetry reader, and miles from being an expert, but the editor in me can’t help weighing in on possible candidates for a revised, updated edition. Such a volume would almost have to include Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving But Drowning,” for example, or any number of works by that poet laureate of disappointment, Philip Larkin. It might be a poignant touch to include one of George MacBeth’s own later poems, in which he explored the toll taken on his life and marriage by the motor neuron disease that ultimately killed him. Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” from 1732, was probably still too rancid for general consumption in 1963, but its expression of epic loathing for human (or at least female) physicality makes it a strong candidate for most neurotic poem in the Western canon. Still, if anything is conspicuous by its absence, it’s the “sound and fury” speech from Shakespeare’s Macbeth – for me, the most sonorous, gobsmacking, and profound poem in English. 
On the other hand, I felt personally validated by the inclusion, albeit with slight variations and an anonymous attribution, of the first verse of “Antigonish” by Hughes Mearns. Most people seem to find it innocuous enough – it was adapted into a hit song by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, for God’s sake – but it always struck an existential chill in my heart, like a cross between Edward Lear and Samuel Beckett:
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
Shudder.
Still, it’s doubtful that a book entitled The Penguin Book of Sick Verse could have been hatched any time other than the late ‘50s – early ‘60s, a time when the concept of “sick” was very much in the air. 
It didn’t take a whole lot to be considered deviant in post-war America, and the word “sick” came to be applied to any form of behavior or artistic expression that questioned the suburban pieties. (If one is to believe the cartoons and sitcoms of the era, the word was also a common term of approbation among beatniks, as in “Sick, man, sick!”) Everyone was busy hypnotizing themselves into believing that everything was perfectly normal, that the war hadn’t really changed anything – when it fact it had changed everything, irrevocably. Combine that with the midcentury vogue for Freudian psychoanalysis, and the stage was set for the Return of the Repressed. Presiding over the emerging chaos was that gap-toothed imp of the perverse, Alfred E. Neuman – a figure whose lineage has been traced back to advertisements from the late 19th century, but who reached his apotheosis in the ‘50s and ‘60s as the mascot for Mad magazine and avatar of an irreverent new age that took nothing at face value. (Nineteen-sixty even saw the debut of a Mad knockoff called. . . wait for it. . . Sick.)

At the other end of the spectrum was Time magazine, then the semi-official voice of mainstream liberalism and guardian of middlebrow “good taste.” In July of 1959, it published “The Sickniks,” which cast a wary and largely disapproving eye on the new generation of anti-establishment comics then making waves in American nightclubs. (As for the title, this was the era when everyone was on edge about the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik. For awhile, it was trendy among journalists to add a “-nik” suffix to everything they wished to dismiss and/or tar with the brush of Godless Communism; thus “beatniks,” “peaceniks,” etc.)

“They joked about father and Freud, about mother and masochism, about sister and sadism,” the anonymous Time article begins. “They delightedly told of airline pilots’ throwing out a few passengers to lighten the load, of a graduate school for dope addicts, of parents so loving that they always ‘got upset if anyone else made me cry.’ They attacked motherhood, childhood, adulthood, sainthood. And in perhaps a dozen nightclubs across the country. . . . audiences paid stiff prices to soak it up. For the ‘sick’ comedians, life’s complexion has never looked so green.”
The article rounds up an impressively diverse and brilliant array of comics under the “sick” banner: topical comedian Mort Sahl, who drew most of his material from the New York Times; improv master Jonathan Winters (“a roly-poly brainy-zany,” in Time-ese); the neurotic but relatively mainstream Shelley Berman; erudite sketch artists Nichols and May; and acerbic satirist and song parodist Tom Lehrer.

But Time directs its harshest criticism at, predictably enough, Lenny Bruce, whose fate it was to bear the brunt of mainstream hostility and, by falling on his sword, make it possible for future comedians to speak freely without fear. From the article: “Although audiences unquestionably laugh at Bruce, much of the time he merely shouts angrily and tastelessly at the way of the world (on religious leaders: ‘They have missed the boat. “Thou shall not kill,” they say, and then one of them walks comfortingly to the death chamber with Caryl Chessman.’)”. For his part, Bruce fired back in his routine “The Tribunal”: “The kind of sickness I wish Time had written about, is that school teachers in Oklahoma get a top annual salary of $4000, while Sammy Davis Jr. gets $10,000 for a week in Vegas.”

Nowadays, few people would raise an eyebrow at Bruce’s take on religious hypocrisy, but in the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras, the very concept of criticizing organized religion in a comedy routine seemed alien and frightening. What links revolutionary figures like Bruce with a relatively genteel poetry collection from across the pond is that both reflect an era when a handful of brave souls realized that truth-telling mattered more than social decorum. Popular culture no longer aimed to please everybody, all the time; it dared to be divisive, ask tough questions, and look frankly at subjects once considered beyond the pale. And lo and behold, it worked.

In 2015, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher routinely broadcast material that goes beyond what Lenny Bruce was arrested for, both in savagery and profanity, and they are adored by millions. By contrast, the once-safe humor of mainstream icon Bob Hope, rife with casual sexism and homophobia, now seems retrograde and embarrassing in the extreme. The sickniks won, and we’re all the healthier for it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day From your Friends at Morbid Anatomy

http://morbidanatomy.bigcartel.com/product/love-cults-drugs-and-the-hypnotic-arts-a-valentine-s-day-lecture-and-rare-film-screening
Happy Almost Valentine's Day! Hope to see you at February 14th's Love Cults, Drugs and the Hypnotic Arts with Mel Gordon, author of Voluptuous Panic and Grand Guiginol!

And, to celebrate the day, here is a wax heart as seen at the Josephinum Museum in Vienna, Austria.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Love Cults and the Hypnotic Arts! Hysterical Demons! Singles Night One Year Anniversary Edition: Valentine's Week at Morbid Anatomy

Happy Valentine's Week from your friends at Morbid Anatomy! We hope very much see you at one or more of our terrific holiday offerings.

First up: this Tuesday, February 10th, we'll host the one year anniversary edition of Morbid Curiosity, our popular singles night (more here). On Wednesday the 11th will be a night of Hysterical Demons and Pathological Saints, the final installment of our Anatomy of Hysteria series with Asti Hustvedt, author of Medical Muses, Hysteria in Nineteenth Century Paris; (more here.) Thursday, February 12th, we will host journalist and film-maker Jon Ronson (author of The Psychopath Test) for a screening of his Tottenham Ayatollah, night 5th of our much beloved “Jon Ronson Adventures;” more on that here.

For Valentine's weekend, we hope you'll join us for an excellent double header with refreshments sponsored by Art in the Age Spirits! On Friday the 13th, hope to see you at "A Celebration of Superstitions," a screening, lecture and launch Party with Film-maker in Residence Ronni Thomas and Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America (more here). On Valentine's Day proper, we are delighted to welcome back Mel Gordon, author of Voluptuous Panic, for a talk and rare film screening on the topic of Love Cults, Drugs and the Hypnotic Arts (more here). A discounted ticket for both events is available here.

We have also revamped our membership packages, and made available a such limited edition perks as a signed and numbered "Morbid Anatomy Museum" print by Mark Dion; A private party and tour at The Morbid Anatomy Museum; A special backstage tour of Philadelphia's incomparable Mütter Museum with curator Anna Dhody; and a limited edition archival photo print of the Child's Chapel in the Palermo Catacombs; you can find out more here.

We strive to keep our programming and exhibitions affordable. If you like what we do, please consider becoming a member (with all that entails) by clicking here, or making a tax deductible donations via our fiscal sponsor Brooklyn Arts Council here.

Following is a full list of upcoming events. We very much hope to see you at one or more!

IMMEDIATELY UPCOMING
  • Morbid Curiosity : A Morbid Anatomy Single's Night One Year Anniversary Party!
    Tuesday, February 10th, 8pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Hysterical Demons and Pathological Saints, Part III of The Anatomy of Hysteria: Clinical  Collaborations and Coercions in 19th Century Paris: Illustrated Lecture with Asti Hustvedt, author of Medical Muses, Hysteria in Nineteenth Century Paris
    Wednesday, February 11th, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lectures on Hysteria), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Tottenham Ayatollah: Screening and discussion with journalist and film-maker Jon Ronsonauthor of ThePsychopath TestNight 5 of “The Jon Ronson Adventures” 
    Thursday, February 12th, 8pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Friday the 13th: A Celebration of Superstitions Web Series Screening, Lecture and Launch Party with Morbid Anatomy Film-maker in Residence Ronni Thomas and Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America
    Sponsored by Art in the Age Spirits
    Friday, February 13th, 8pm, $13, Tickets (and more info) here
    ($20 for Double Feature with Love Cults Valentine's Day Lecture, February 14)
  • Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Workshop: Valentine Day's Special with Daisy Tainton
    Saturday, February 14th, 1 – 4pm, $75, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Love Cults, Drugs and the Hypnotic Arts: A Valentine's Day Illustrated Lecture and Rare Film Screening with Mel Gordon, author of Voluptuous Panic and Grand Guiginol
    Saturday February 14th, 8pm,
     $12, Tickets (and more info) here

    Sponsored by Art in the Age Spirits

    ($20 for Double Feature with Superstition Party, February 13)
  • Fancy Chicken Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman
    Sunday, February 15th, 12-6pm, $400, Tickets (and more info) here


NEWLY ANNOUNCED
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Warren Anatomical Museum and the 19th Century American Anatomy Museum, An Illustrated Lecture with Dominic Hall, curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum.
    Friday, March 13th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Collector's Cabinet Closing Party with collector's show and tell and Morbid Anatomy Presents film series launch party, with filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas 
    Sunday, March 29th, 7pm, $15 for Members, $25 for Non-Members, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
    Sunday, April 26th, 11am - 6pm, $150 and includes admission to the Morbid Anatomy Museum, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Shock and Amazed: The Unseen Footage with Jeff Krulik, director of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"
    Tuesday, April 28th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 


ALL UPCOMING EVENTS
  • Morbid Curiosity : A Morbid Anatomy Single's Night One Year Anniversary Party!
    Tuesday, February 10th, 8pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Hysterical Demons and Pathological Saints, Part III of The Anatomy of Hysteria: Clinical  Collaborations and Coercions in 19th Century Paris: Illustrated Lecture with Asti Hustvedt, author of Medical Muses, Hysteria in Nineteenth Century Paris
    Wednesday, February 11th, 8pm, $8 ($20 for the 3 Lectures on Hysteria), Tickets (and more info) 
    here
  • Tottenham Ayatollah: Screening and discussion with journalist and film-maker Jon Ronsonauthor of ThePsychopath TestNight 5 of “The Jon Ronson Adventures” 
    Thursday, February 12th, 8pm, $15, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Friday the 13th : A Celebration of Superstitions Web Series Screening, Lecture and Launch Party with Morbid Anatomy Film-maker in Residence Ronni Thomas and Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America
    Sponsored by Art in the Age Spirits
    Friday, February 13th, 8pm, $13, Tickets (and more info) here
    ($20 for Double Feature with Love Cults Valentine's Day Lecture, February 14)
  • Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Workshop: Valentine Day's Special with Daisy Tainton
    Saturday, February 14th, 1 – 4pm, $75, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Love Cults, Drugs and the Hypnotic Arts: A Valentine's Day Illustrated Lecture and Rare Film Screening with Mel Gordon, author of Voluptuous Panic and Grand Guiginol
    Sponsored by Art in the Age Spirits
    Saturday February 14th, 8pm, $12, Tickets (and more info) here

    ($20 for Double Feature with Superstition Party, February 13)
  • Fancy Chicken Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman
    Sunday, February 15th, 12-6pm, $400, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Death Through the Microscope: La Bohème: A Portrait of Today’s Oceans in Peril An Illustrated Lecture and Screening with Science Artist Mara G. Haseltine
    Monday February 16th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Abandoned NYC: A Presentation by Urban Explorer Will Ellis
    Wednesday, February 18th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • The American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015: An Illustrated Lecture with Anni Irish
    Thursday, February 19th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Boneyards: A Solo Performance by Jeffrey Stanley
    Friday February 20th, Friday February 27th, Friday March 6th, 8pm, $20, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Winged Rats and Guinea Pigs Taxidermy Class with Katie Innamorato. 
    Sunday, February 22nd, 12pm - 6pm, $225, Tickets (and more info) here
  • YOLO, or The Sting of Death and the Value of Life: An Illustrated Lecture by Ian Olasov, Brooklyn College
    Thursday, February 26th, 8pm, $8
    , Tickets and info here
     
  • Ethel Spector Person: Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sex, Power and Gender: An Illustrated Lecture with Jennifer McGillan, Archivist at the Augustus C. Long Library of Columbia University Medical Center
    Tuesday, March 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Erotomania and Murder: 19th-century Sexual Monsters, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Coe, author of "Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" 
    Wednesday March 4th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here 
  • Cute and Creepy: A History of the Grotesque in Art: Illustrated lecture with Art Critic and Author Nancy Hightower Thursday, March 5th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here
  • Warren Anatomical Museum and the 19th Century American Anatomy Museum, An Illustrated Lecture with Dominic Hall, curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum. 
    Friday, March 13th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Experimenting with Death: An Introduction to the Terror Management Theory of Human Behavior: An Illustrated Lecture with Social Psychologist Michael Johns
    Wednesday, March 18th, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here

  • Whimsical Taxidermy in 19th Century Design: An Illustrated Lecture and Show and Tell with John Whiteknight, author Under Glass, introduced and Moderated by Melissa Milgrom, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
    Thursday, March 19th, 8:00 PM, $8, Tickets (and more info) 
    here 
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence
    Saturday, March 21st, 12pm – 5pm, $110 one headed/$125 two headed, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Mammal Heads Taxidermy Class with Katie Innamorato. 
    Sunday, March 22nd, 12pm - 6pm, $400, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Fancy Pigeon Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman, Taxidermist in Residence
    Saturday, March 28th, 12 to 6pm, $275, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Collector's Cabinet Closing Party with collector's show and tell and Morbid Anatomy Presents film series launch party, with filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas 
    Sunday, March 29th, 7pm, $15 for Members, $25 for Non-Members, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Medical History Theater 3000: Historical Medical Film Screening and Presentation with Michael Sappol, Historian, History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine 
    Friday, April 3rd, 8pm, $8, Tickets and info here
  • Svengali, and the Sexual Anxieties of the Anti-Semite: 16 mm Screening, with a short introduction by Filmmaker Joel Schlemowitz as well as Trilby-themed cocktails and pre- and post-screening 78 records on the Victrola 
    Tuesday, April 14th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Rabbit Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman. 
    Saturday, April 18th, 12pm - 6pm, $300, Ticket (and more info) here
  • Shock and Amazed: The Unseen Footage with Jeff Krulik, director of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"
    Tuesday, April 28th, 8pm, $8, Tickets (and more info) here
  • Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman 
    Sunday, April 19th, 12pm - 6pm, $110.00 (one-headed) / $125.00 (two-headed), Tickets and info here
  • Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
    Sunday, April 26th, 11am - 6pm, $150 and includes admission to the Morbid Anatomy Museum, Tickets (and more info) here