Doesn't it feel like the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts? Think of the difference between dissecting a cadaver and meeting the living, breathing person! Still, I'd like to try to conjure something of An Anatomy Act for you and I'll try not to let this be a dismemberment, decapitation, or post mortem. What can I use to map the memory and transmit it to you, now? Only language. And that old chestnut comes to mind: 'Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable'.
I'm sitting in the dark in Project Cube, somewhere inside my body, looking out. And the room is full of other living bodies - coughing, scratching, breathing, rumbling - and all of the hearts are going "lub dub, lub dub", inaudible to me, as they pump the blood around. We are watching Anna Furse and Henry Dag's bodies on the stage as they perform An Anatomy Act. It's a very striking scenography. Henry Dag is playing the saw. Controlled vibrations create sound waves and the effect is a haunting, supernatural-sounding music. In duet with the saw is the music of Anna Furse's voice. It sounds professorial, human, warm. She has a deeply engaging presence.
Anna Furse quotes Gustav Mahler: 'a symphony should contain the whole world'. This is a 'show and tell' about the mapping of the human body, but it also points to much more than that, using, as it does, one thing at a time to talk about many others. Using the physical to talk about the symbolic and vice versa.
Gustav Mahler had a body too, of course, with two of everything on the outside and one of everything down the middle, just like mine. Something of Mahler lives on now in his music and his legacy, even though his body died in 1911.
Alma Mahler was also a composer. She married Gustav Mahler under his condition that she would abandon her own interest in composing. Later, when their marriage was on the rocks, Gustav sought advice from Sigmund Freud, who suggested that Gustav's curtailing of Alma's career might constitute an obstacle in their marriage. So Gustav changed his tune.
After Gustav Mahler died, Alma had a turbulent affair with an artist called Oskar Kokoschka, and it sounds like he was possessive, and like Alma refused to be controlled. After Alma ended the relationship with him, Kokoschka commissioned a life-size replica of her body. He wrote to the doll-maker:
'Yesterday I sent a life-size drawing of my beloved and I ask you to copy this most carefully and to transform it into reality. Pay special attention to the dimensions of the head and neck, to the ribcage, the rump and the limbs. And take to heart the contours of the body, e.g., the line of the neck to the back, the curve of the belly. Please permit my sense of touch to take pleasure in those places where layers of fat or muscle suddenly give way to a sinewy covering of skin'.
These are just a couple of the things that An Anatomy Act touches on during its sensual tour of the history of human anatomy. It heroically resists being about just one thing, or even two. It is a kind of delicious, macabre, visual, auditory, tactile, anatomical and political meditation on mortality and meaning that outlines an idea-body deftly by touching it lightly just here and there. But, trust me, it is also more.
Meadhbh for DRAFF
An Anatomy Act by Anna Furse runs at Project Arts Centre until December 1st as part of Live Collision Festival.