The Anatomical Unconscious: X-Ray Specs, Visible Women, and the Eros of the Unseen

Tweety Bird skull: Copyright Hyungkoo Lee, all rights reserved.

Tweety Bird skull: Copyright Hyungkoo Lee, all rights reserved.

An illustrated lecture with cult author and cultural critic Mark Dery
Date: Friday, June 18th
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $7
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

What do 18th-century wax “anatomical Venuses” doing a striptease in which they expose their internal organs; cutaway views of the imaginary anatomy of Loony Tunes characters; the X-Ray Specs and Visible Woman toys familiar to boomers; and artist Wim Delvoye’s X-rated X-rays of people performing sex acts have in common?

Mark Dery makes these and other provocative connections in his lecture “The Anatomical Unconscious: X-Ray Specs, Visible Women, and the Eros of the Unseen,” a cultural critique of the eroticizing of the scientific gaze. In his hour-long lecture/slideshow, Dery will touch on the pornographic fantasies that swirled around the X-ray from its inception; adolescent dreams, fueled by comic-book ads for X-Ray Specs, of the potential uses for Superman’s X-ray vision; current fears of the potential for abusive use of airport scanners that penetrate clothing; and the artist Wim Delvoye’s series of pornographic X-rays. He’ll theorize the eros of the X-ray, with digressions into the weird cartoon subgenre of imaginary anatomies (of everything from Star Wars At-Ats to Loony Tunes characters) and premonitions of X-rated X-rays inherent in the baroque medical mannequins on display at the Museum La Specola in Florence, Italy.

Mark Dery ( is a cultural critic. He is best known for his writings on the politics of popular culture in books such as The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. Dery is widely associated with the concept of “culture jamming,” the guerrilla media criticism movement he popularized through his 1993 essay “Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of the Signs,” and “Afrofuturism,” a term he coined and theorized in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future” (included in the anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, which he edited). He has been a professor in the Department of Journalism at New York University, a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow at UC Irvine, a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, and, most proudly, a guest blogger at Boing Boing. He writes the Doom Patrol column of cultural commentary at True/Slant (

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