Beyond Biotourism: Cross-Pollinations between Art and Medicine

The symposium Beyond Biotourism: Cross-Pollinations between Art and Medicine was held in advance of and complementary to the exhibition Auto/Pathographies. In recent years, the most widely disseminated cross-pollinations between artistic and medical forms of representation have revolved around our enduring fascination with “visualizing the real”. Art exhibitions and television series have increasingly displayed the human body’s hidden landscapes, presenting them as uncharted territories open to the scrutiny of untrained eyes.

“Biotourism” is now accessible to all, having spread, for example, with Orlan’s infamous plastic surgery performances, broadcast around the world in real-time and with the display of actual écorchés in the touring Körperwelten exhibitions. (Note: Biotourism is the “transformation of bodies into landscapes, their re-creation as a bioscape for imagined travel and the establishment of regimes of truth and knowledge by rendering the invisible visible.” Kim Sawchuk, Parables of a Biotourist, HorizonZero, 01/2003)

While the promise of “exposing the real” explains the general public’s attraction to medical procedure-based representations, interest in such practices is not limited to their exhibitionistic appeal. Beyond the spectacle of hidden anatomies, cross-pollinations between art and medicine are capable of bringing critical insights into the assumptions underlying each discipline. What, for instance, might the visual epistemologies of medicine reveal about the processes underlying artistic practice? Can art, once integrated into the medical sphere, extend beyond its conventional aesthetic or even therapeutic functions? Beyond Biotourism assembles presentations by researchers from the medical hu-
manities whose investigations into specific instances of art and medicine cross-pollinations provide the frameworks with which to address these questions.
Tamar Tembeck

• Tamar Tembeck: Introduction: Beyond Biotourism
• Cornelius Borck: Almost Nothing: On the Unnoticeable in Art, Science and Medicine
• Christina Lammer: Scalpel Painting: Günter Brus’ Theory of Scars
• Vincent Barras: Glossolaly, Hallucination and Modernity—On Sound and Visual Practices in Medicine and Art

Tamar TEMBECK is an art historian, writer and performer based in Montreal. She completed her PhD in art history at the McGill University in Montreal with the dissertation Performative Autopathographies: Self-Representations of Physical Illness in Contemporary Art. Since 2003, Tamar Tembeck has also been working as a therapeutic artist with Dr. Clown in Montreal hospitals, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers.

Vincent BARRAS is a professor in the History of Medicine at the Université de Lausanne. His research interests include theories of the body, medicine and psychiatry as well as music, poetry and contemporary art.

Cornelius BORCK is Dean of the Department of the History of Medicine and Science Studies at the University of Lübeck. His research interests include body, mind and self in times of biomedical visualization techniques, historical epistemology, and media theory and man-machine relationships in art and science.

Christina LAMMER is a sociologist, communications and cultural researcher who lives and works in Vienna. Her topics include the visualization of the human body in medical science, visual art and film.


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