Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anatomies, Engraved and Dissected

Anatomists, both in their everyday practice and when instructing their engravers to make prints, cut off and discarded those parts of the mother's body- head, arms,legs- which they percieved as unnecessary components.

Such perspectives were carved, inscribed on the body by the surgeon's knife, and by the engraver's needle. A certain violent activity joined engraving to anatomy. Anyone who has ever engraved is aware that it is a material act, not a surface process. The pleasures of going into a steel or copper plate are entirely carnal. Both dissection and engraving require a decisive cutting and carving. The eternal life of the image is always secured at the expense of the death of the object of study. Thus engraving, which involved incising, mirrored the work of anatomical dissection. Both processes demanded a degree of precision, a certain exactness and both are, essentially, a question of where to draw the line.

- Roberta McGrath
'Seeing Her Sex: Medical Archives and The Female Body' (2002:66)



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