Surgical Wrappings (2009-2014)

July 1, 2009:

Der Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds (WWTF) fördert ein von Christina Lammer 2008 eingereichtes Projekt. In SURGICAL WRAPPINGS werden Materialkomponenten und der sterile Raum im chirurgischen ‘Operationstheater’ künstlerisch, historisch und anthropologisch untersucht. Die Künstlerin Barbara Graf und die Historikerinnen Birgit Nemec und Katrin Pilz arbeiten eng mit C. Lammer zusammen, um dem zwischenmenschlichen Kontakt und dem gesellschaftlichen Aktionsradius während des Operierens nachzuspüren.



Surgical Wrappings is nurtured by the idea that human being unfolds. The project is particularly inspired by the Polish theatre director Tadeusz Kantor and his works on clothing. Exemplarily we use The Lesson of Anatomy after Rembrandt (1969) and The Small Cosmetic Operations (1969) to develop an initial research framework. Kantor demonstrates in these Happenings that anatomy and surgery – the dead and the living body – are tightly connected in our modern culture. Thus, at the beginning of our research endeavor a paradox will be addressed: In surgery healing goes hand in hand with an injury. Surgeons necessarily continue the anatomization of the human body, reconstructing functions of the organism with the help of a knife. We aim at investigating this particular culture of dissection in Vienna. For this we will analyze medical historical depictions of the human body in the operating theatres at the General Hospital. The Collections of the Medical University Vienna, where the project is located, offers a rich body of image materials to the topic. Moreover the Josephinum is the residence of the collection of anatomical wax preparations, which is of great interest to our studies. One of the key challenges of Surgical Wrappings is the creation of a space where complex themes like dissections – still widely put under taboo – and their deeper meanings and socio-symbolic sense connections are regarded as integrative part of our cultural heritage. Thinking about the relationships between anatomy or pathology and surgery in terms of clothing and disclosure is only one possible approach, though for us the most appealing. According to the psychiatrist and neurologist Paul Schilder, we live constantly with the knowledge of our body. Hence the body image is one of the fundamental points of life experience. With a change of clothes we transform our set of attitudes. How do processes of wrapping and unwrapping of patients and clinical personnel in the operating theatres of plastic and reconstructive surgery influence interpersonal relationships? Combining historical, visual ethnographic and artistic research, developing a multidisciplinary collaboration of artists, historians, surgeons and sociologists, is another important challenge of the project. A variety of different expressive modes are in the play. Lifting the curtains of these manifold textures of corporeality and human existence, of their transformations during time, offers various forms of creative disclosure. We aim at providing a sensual vocabulary of cloth and its functions in contemporary surgery.

Foto: Christina Lammer, Chirurgische Tücher, 2009