Bodies and souls

A year in art
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  December 19, 2006

061222_inside_body
DUST TO DUST?: “Body Worlds 2” had them lining up at the Museum of Science.

Preserved flayed corpses at the Museum of Science, Americans in Paris and Paris fashion collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, underground art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, beavers at Mass College of Art — it was that kind of year, capped off by the arrival of the new Institute of Contemporary Art. Here’s a look at what we got as seen by Greg Cook, Christopher Millis, Sharon Steel, David Eisen, and myself.

1. NEW AND IMPROVED
After a three-month postponement, the new Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed ICA finally opened, spreading its fourth-floor gallery space over Boston Harbor as if it were about to set sail. Will it revitalize Boston art? Will it revitalize the waterfront? And will it fit in with the new City Hall? Only time will tell.

2. WHERE’S OUR WUNDER?
Dazzling and inspiring at the RISD Museum, “Wunderground” offered a floor-to-ceiling survey of practically every poster produced to advertise under-the-radar Providence shenanigans from 1995 to 2005, plus Shangri-la-la-land, a “towering sculptural village” by nine artists that aimed to represent the best of the current scene. The Man smashed the old brick building in 2002 to erect a supermarket; still, Fort Thunder’s ghost lingers. You wonder how this scene got past the ICA.

3. THAT VISION THING
Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology and Contemporary Art” at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center addressed the intersection of technology and physical sensation, with six international artists working in media ranging from sweat-scented walls to headgear that allowed you to see what others were seeing. At Brandeis’s Rose Art Museum, “Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art” looked at how the emergence of video art in the 1960s corresponded with the government’s use of surveillance equipment, photos, and videos as tools in thwarting anti-war and civil-rights protesters; yet it also showed artists filming unsuspecting subjects and employing surveillance footage as an element of artistic production.

4. DUST TO DUST?
In 1977, German scientist Dr. Gunther von Hagens invented a new way of preserving corpses for anatomical study that entailed replacing the body’s water tissue with fluid plastics. Result? “Body Worlds,” exhibitions of plastinated bodies, frequently in wacky poses, that have been donated by their one-time owners. “Body Worlds 2” came to the Museum of Science this summer, and the response necessitated extra evening viewing hours. Who can resist a good old-time freak show given the respectable imprimatur of science and edumacation? Especially one that raises the oldest question: what happens to us after we’re gone?

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Related: In search of modern art, Dollhouses and dream states, Return to the edge of the world, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fra Angelico, Laura McPhee,  More more >
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