Echoes of Mutilation: The Saints and their Afterlives

Plate from Vesalius' Fabrica

Plate from Vesalius' Fabrica

An illustrated lecture by Colin Dickey, author of Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
Date: Saturday, July 24
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

In the wake of the photos of Abu Ghraib, images of torture have been pushed back into the forefront of American consciousness, but Western history has had a long and complicated relationship with images of torture. Colin Dickey discusses images of torture in the cult of Christian saints, particularly Saint Bartholomew (who was flayed alive), Saint Lucy (whose eyes were gouged out) and Saint Agatha (whose breasts were cut off). Inverting the traditional relationship of torturer and powerless victim, Christian imagery turned the act of torture into empowerment, where specific methods of torture became iconically associated with specific saints. As the cult of the saints waned, these images of torture began to filter into European consciousness in bizarre and fascinating ways, appearing in everything from Renaissance anatomy textbooks to the paintings of Paul Gauguin to the feminist art of the 1970’s.

Colin Dickey is the author of Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, and the co-editor (with Nicole Antebi and Robby Herbst) of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Cabinet, TriQuarterly, and The Santa Monica Review. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives in Los Angeles. This is a return visit for Colin, who lectured on Cranioklepty earlier this year at Observatory to great acclaim; more on that lecture can be found here.

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