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Beheading the Body

Beheading the Body

A temporary display curated by Tulsi Parikh and Hanneke Reijnierse-Salisbury, in Bay C

 

What's in a head? This curated cabinet isn’t so much about the body beheaded as about the head disembodied. It brings together images in different media, and from different contexts, which share an interest in the head as represented independently from the body. Cultures all over the world see the head, and the face, as the seat of identity – it is, after all, usually the most readily identifiable part of our bodies.

Idealised female heads on Greek pottery, snarling monsters, merry satyrs, masks in the shape of wrinkled old women... Look beyond the full-bodied sculptures - the Doryphoros, for instance, standing next to the display cabinet in Bay C - and isolated heads abound in classical archaeology. But explore the Roman portraits in Bay J, and viewers will find that these questions are not restricted to tiny remnants of broken pottery but are to be grappled with throughout the Cast Gallery as a whole. Many of the bodies represented in this collection are fragmented, some by accidents of survival but others very deliberately.

How does viewing just a head concentrate the mind on questions of identity and personhood? And why are those identities often so very hard to pin down...? The significance of all these heads cannot be singular: its meaning must be multiple, shifting through different examples and contexts.

 

display cabinet with broken masks and pottery sherds

 

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Beheading the Body is part of our Grads Curate programme, showcasing research from the Faculty of Classics' graduate students.

 

 

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Every cast tells two stories.
One ancient. One modern.

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