“The Emotional Rhetoric of Gustav Zeiller’s Anatomical Museum”. Nike Fakiner


Works such as Hannah Wilke’s self-portraits during her cancer therapy, Mona Hatoum’s “inform portraits” in her Corps étranger video installation, or Marilène Oliver’s Family Portrait, to name but a few, focused attention on the medical view of the body in order to discuss the relationship between corporeality and gender politics, sexuality, spirituality and rationality. Many of the works in question seem to insinuate that we do not have first-hand experience of our own bodies and their inner processes, and that our experience of them is mediated by social and cultural expectations. Medicine has played a central role in our (rational) comprehension of our bodies and health. Scientists use autopsies to study bodies, and the knowledge thus obtained is what conditions the way we think about ourselves and relate to our own organisms. One reminder of this would be the recent world tour of the Bodyworlds exhibition by Gunther von Hagens, a doctor. This was a public event that once again turned the medical gaze on the body into a media spectacle, which though it might not have been appropriate for all audiences, brought in the profits. His exhibition is not the only one of its kind. The spectacle of the anatomized body is rooted in a long Western tradition.

In my talk, I will be going back to the 19th century to examine the educational role of scientific exhibitions on the body. I will focus, in particular, on the case of Gustav Zeiller’s popular anatomical museum, and analyse how he educated his public on the theme. I will analyse how Zeiller attributed his educational objects with emotions in order to create certain emotions in his spectators and strengthen the authority and persuasive force of his argument: self-knowledge began with a rational understanding of the body. Only by constant surveillance of their own bodies could his audience become decent citizens, he claimed. I will argue that anatomical museums like Zeiller’s served to instruct the 19th century bourgeoisie in ways of seeing (themselves).

Nike Fakiner attained a PhD with her thesis Propiedades materiales y experiencias subjetivas: Los modelos anatómicos de Gustav Zeiller (Material Properties and Subjective Experiences: Gustav Zeiller’s Anatomical Models), at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid (UCM), 2014. She was a predoctoral research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, Queen Mary University London (QMUL), the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge (HPS), and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPI), Berlin. The results of her research have been presented at international congresses in Geneva, Paris, London, Leiden and Berlin. She has worked as an educator and cultural manager for Thyssen Bornemisza and the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid. She also worked as assistant curator on Skin, supervised by Javier Moscoso, for the Wellcome Collection, London, 2010. She is a member of the international research group HIST-EX (Emotional studies: History and Philosophy of Experience), with the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). As from January, she will be lecturing at the Universidad Instituto de Empresa (IE), Madrid