The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics

This exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute might sound arcane or even slightly off-putting. In fact I found it a fascinating collection, including both art works and prosthetic devices.

The prosthetics and the art works are integrated so a visitor moves from the actual to the representations. My particular favourites were art works from post-World War I. There were some striking drawings, prints and paintings as artists responded to this cataclysmic event.

“Throughout history human beings have sought to extend and supplement their own forms to move faster and reach further. [This exhibition] … traces how artists have addressed radical changes to the very things we know best: our bodies” [Exhibition Catalogue).

'Monument to Unknown Prosthetics', 1930

‘Monument to Unknown Prosthetics’, 1930

There were also photographs of the treatments and developments for soldiers who suffered loss of limbs and organs in the conflict. There were interesting parallels with the film footage of post WWI rehabilitation screened at one of the HPPH WWI events, Regeneration (1997).

Most fascinating for me was a short 16mm film projected with an accompanying audio track, Entartete Kunst Lebt by Yael Bartana. The title is the German phrase coined by the Nazis to vilify the progressive art that they hated, ‘Degenerate Art’.  The foremost artist who suffered from this was Otto Dix. His painting ‘Trench War and Cripples’ was burnt by the Nazi, but a  photograph of the original survives. Bartana has used modern animation techniques to provide multiple images of the original and edit them into a five minute film. The film reworks the power of the Dix original into  a moving set of images and sounds.


The exhibition is at the Institute until October 23rd., thirty minutes, or maybe more, and you can enjoy a stimulating walk round. There are also some parallel talks at the Institute. The interesting topic on September 28th is ‘Dismembering and Remembering Dada and the First World War’. The Dada movement worked in a number  of  forms and included avant-garde films by Man Ray and René Clair.

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