• Show Me The Body
  • image courtesy The Universe Within

  • Show Me The Body
  • image courtesy The Universe Within

  • Show Me The Body
  • image courtesy The Universe Within

John Waters did an interview that was republished in Harper’s in the mid-eighties in which they asked him if there was anything that really shocked him. He said that he had heard of something called “full nudity” (this was at the height of the tattooing craze) where people would strip their flesh and put plastic coating over their exposed organs - so you could actually see organs functioning ala the “Visible Man”. Which led John to ask what affect that would have on social contact. For instance, if you saw someone and their heart started pounding faster would you look away or think “oh, maybe she likes me”? So this lust for full physical disclosure is always there, and that of course, is the engine behind The Universe Within. You know, the dead body show by what’s-his-name; at the Nob Hill Masonic Center Exhibition Hall, open daily 11:00am-7:00pm.

And yes, I know he has a name. It’s Gunther von Hagens. And yet he doesn’t seem to have any relation to this show. In none of the press packages is he named. And of course, those works were originally shown years ago presented at art festivals. Ars Electronica and others in London and Japan. And now all of the sudden it’s anonymous science.

So anyway, I think it’s fake.

And this is where it gets complicated.

I wish they could/would prove it isn’t fake. I know art involves a lot of faith. Maybe even more than religion. Of course, I’m writing this while watching news of the death of Pope JohnPaulGeorgeRingo, as I like to call him, and that leap of faith that makes something “art or not” is not there yet.

Habeas Corpus, Latin for “you have the body” commonly refers to a petition to bring a prisoner before a court or a judge. It says in essence, “Show me the body” so that a judgment can be determined.

von Hagens shows us the body, but I’m still not sure it is a body. Which brings up all of sorts of issues. I’m pretty sure I have a body. I’ve been accused I’ve not living in my own body but I’m sure it’s there. I know because I’ve touched it.

And here’s another thing - all the specimens are the same height. People are not the same height; you know diversity and all that bullshit. What are the odds? Any competent sculptor could make these objects.

It’s so simple. We can figure out if they are lying. All we need is a DNA sample and boom, we know if it’s a person or something from Flax.

Where’s the documentary where we see the actual embalming process? I ‘d be more interested in that. Again, Habeas Corpus, dude.

And the eyes - the eyes aren’t real. They’re clearly glass eyes which makes you wonder, what also isn’t real? You’ve got your Weapons of Mass Destruction. You have elections where ballots are missing. Where does it end? I can’t live like this. Are we turning into a culture of lying? I need to know. I think we all need to know.

I watched the marriage of Camilla and Prince Charles and they looked like they were getting a root canal. She looked liked she had a porcupine with rabies on her head. But who am to talk? Was my love for Lana, Anne, Melissa, Gabrielle, and Helen any different? I tried to make it real. Maybe I thought so at the time and at the time it couldn’t be more real but… can it be proved?

17 dollars is a lot of money. That’s like a dollar per testicle. When I called Christi in PR she was very insistent that it was a science show. I’m tempted to put the word science in quotation marks, which says a lot about the times we live in. Science can be beautiful because the premise is that it’s provable and repeatable and true. And faith? The beauty of faith comes from an opposite premise.

When Joseph Beuys had the gallery assistant go up to the Bronx and find a stray dog and claim it was a coyote for his piece, well that was fun. But if this turns out to be f-for-fake, how will we feel? You can’t divorce yourself from your publicity. Especially if publicity is your medium.

It’s been a long day. Hailey’s been drawing up a storm. I’m growing this ridiculous moustache for a video and she couldn’t help but tease me about it. But as Jerry Seinfeld said, as we were leaving and looked back at one of the corpses, “That’s got to hurt, I don’t care where you come from”.

The world we live in is much like the military; guilty until proven innocent. Likewise, projects such as The Universe Within are fake until proven real. And if real, well, the can of worms really is open. But until then, I’ll say it one more time. Habeas Corpus. Oh please God, Habeas Corpus.

Nob Hill Masonic Center Exhibition Hall
1111 California Street, San Francisco
Open Daily, 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.


— Dale Hoyt has been involved in the making, curation and criticism of media art for over 25 years. His videotapes, drawings and paintings are in numerous museum permanent collections including the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City. His work will be part of a group show at Baronian_Francey Gallery in Brussels opening May 26, 2005 and running through July.