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Fox, S., Simblett, S., Costin, S., Richardson, R., Baseman, J., Wildgoose, J., Tim, M., 2002.

'The Emotional Impact Of Photographing Post Mortems And Crematoria'.

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:Fox, S. 'The Business of the Flesh - Art, Science & Access to the Human Body'
Venue:Ruskin School of Art
Dates:2/11/2002 - 2/11/2002

At a time when visual imaging techniques are diminishing the emphasis on dissection of the human body in medical education there is a renaissance of interest in the body among artists. Anatomists, pathologists and artists seek to comprehend mutability using mutable materials -but who owns and rightfully controls access to bodily materials? Judgement in the case of artist Anthony-Noel Kelly (who was prosecuted in 1997-8 for taking specimens from the Royal College of Surgeouns) broke legal tradition;precedent had held that the human corpse did not constitute property, and therefore could not be stolen. But the Judge ruled that the anatomists' skilled work on the specimens gave the RSC a right to possession; Kelly was convicted of theft and imprisoned. It has since been revealed that human rights organs have been retained without consent oevr a period of years at mnay UK hospitals and mortuaries, and as a result, the Governement has instituted a ntaional review of organ retention policy. Thes matters have provoked considerable anxiety about consent, ownership and decency, giving rise to extensive media attention. However, public attitudes are always inconsistent. Human materials are exposed to the general public view in museums, and on television but society apparently balks at Kelly's plaster cast of a specimen, Marc Quinn's head cast from his own frozen blood, or Simon Costin's necklace of phials containing his semen.
The Business of The Flesh brings together artists, doctors, legal experts, ethicists, historians of medicine and art, with other interested parties including families of those subjected to unconsented organ retention, and members of the general public, for informed debate regarding access, rights to and possession and exhibition of the human body by scientists and artists. The conference is a development of the Dead Body:Object, Art, Commodity? An event last Autumn at the ICA with Dr. Ruth Richardson, Jane Wildgoose, Sarah Simblett and Anhtony-Noel Kelly. The Business of the Flesh is designed to contextualise the work of artists and scientists working with human material, bringing them together with members of the public for informed debate on an issue of historic and contemporary significance.