Through three different filmed perspectives and historical contexts, it addresses our corporeal reality as environmentally conditioned mediums: from the onset of anatomy and the first visualisations of an alive body’s insides, to the elaborated management of the body’s products and the censorious of the representation of faeces, and finally to the metabolism and its future role as a design agent.
A Rite of Passage
The three films are structured according to a rite of passage, as defined by Arnold Van Gennep in 1906. A ritual process which occurs when an individual leaves one stage of life and enters another. It involves three stages, where the individual is first stripped of their social status before inducted to a liminal period of transition and before they are finally given or find their new status and re-assimilate into society.
Each film manifests one stage, each with a specific material and site.
Rite I: Separation
Site: Anatomical Theatre
The anatomical theatre was a space for observing and conducting surgery, used between the 16th & 19th century. A theatre celebrating the spectacle of the dissection of bodily material. The dissection was a necessity for acquiring knowledge of the human anatomy and for realising new and undiscovered truths, but which often had fatal consequences.
The film investigates the body as becoming an open system and deals with the perverse dialectic of this elaborated and un-anesthetized experimentation. Oscillating between discipline and desire, between right or wrong.
Rite II: Liminal
Site: The Victorian sewer system of London.
Material: Faecal Matter
Central for the liminal phase is the taboo or the breaking of taboos. The second film investigates the increasing stigmatization and taboo of the body’s waste products. As a site, it investigates the effects of the establishment of the London Victorian sewer system and how this 19th-century system is struggling to cope with 21st-century demands. The natural mechanism of defecation has come to find itself in liminal and ambiguous circumstances. As it is the body, but then dislodged from it, into a society that rejects it.
In the process of civilizing and purifying cities, excrement has become part of the disorder and become shameful. Shit has been assigned to its ‘true’ place, in the home and its wake in individualized behaviour and social practices, public space, domestic furnishings, private beds, graves and hospitals.
Rite III: Reassimilation
Site: Greenhouse / Chinnor Chalk pit
The last film address the post-industrial landscape where bodies are open to human intervention all the way down to the molecular scale. As we depart from the material transubstantiation wrought by the internal chemical factories of the classic understanding of the metabolism to a new awareness, where food shapes the condition of the body and its own future reception.
Using the idea of transfaunation and stomach fistulation, a practice commonly used on cows for establishing shared bacterial systems, the last film address this new coherence between man and nature. Where waste remnants of synthetic compounds, like the mood-stabilizer carbamazepine, are inscrutable from water and rendered equal with the human biome.
 Hannah Landecker. Food as exposure. Nutritional epigenetics and the new metabolism