Johann Georg Leinberger, 1729 – 1731

October 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Bamberg (Bayern), Heilig-Grab-Kapelle in St. Michael: Ölgemälde von Moritz Beckeradt nach Jakob Gebhard, Stuck von Johann Georg Leinberger, 1729-1731.

Die Heilig-Grab-Anlage im Kloster Michelsberg befindet sich in einem im zweiten Viertel des 18. Jahrhunderts speziell für diesen Zweck umgebauten und ausgestatteten Raum. Ganz außergewöhnlich und in dieser Art einmalig ist die Kombination des Grabes mit einem Totentanz, der sich in vielen Einzelszenen an der Decke ausbreitet und so eine enge Beziehung zwischen der Leidensgeschichte Jesu und der Allgegenwärtigkeit des Todes herstellt. Alte und Junge sowie Vertreter verschiedener Berufe werden auf allen Kontinenten zu jeder Jahreszeit mit dem Lebensende – dargestellt als Skelett – konfrontiert.


Carolein Smit – Bishop, ceramic, 2008

August 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mengele’s Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment



In 1985, the body of Josef Mengele, one of the last Nazi war criminals still at large, was unearthed in Brazil. The ensuing process of identifying the bones in question opened up what can now be seen as a third narrative in war crime investigations—not that of the document or the witness but rather the birth of a forensic approach to understanding war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the period coinciding with the discovery of Mengele’s skeleton, scientists began to appear in human rights cases as expert witnesses, called to interpret and speak on behalf of things—often bones and human remains. But the aesthetic, political, and ethical complications that emerge with the introduction of the thing in war crimes trials indicate that this innovation is not simply one in which the solid object provides a stable and fixed alternative to human uncertainties, ambiguities, and anxieties.

The complexities associated with testimony—that of the subject—are echoed in the presentation of the object. Human remains are the kind of things from which the trace of the subject cannot be fully removed. Their appearance and presentation in the courts of law and public opinion has in fact blurred something of the distinction between objects and subjects, evidence and testimony.

Co-published with Portikus, Frankfurt am Main
Design by Zak Group

Kostnice (The Ossuary) 1970 by Jan Švankmajer, 1970

December 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Year: 1970
Music: Zdenek Liska

Kostnice Sedlec is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints (Czech: Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých) in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, many of whom have had their bones artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

During the Black Death in the mid 14th century, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands were buried there and the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged.

Around 1400 a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction, or simply slated for demolition to make room for new burials. After 1511 the task of exhuming skeletons and stacking their bones in the chapel was, according to legend, given to a half-blind monk of the order.

In 1970, the centenary of Rint’s contributions, Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer was commissioned to document the ossuary. The result was a 10 minute long frantic-cut film of skeletal images overdubbed with an actual tour-guide’s neutral voice narration. This version was initially banned by the Czech Communist authorities for alleged subversion, and the soundtrack was replaced by a brief spoken introduction and a jazz arrangement by Zdeněk Liška of the poem “Comment dessiner le portrait d’un oiseau” (“How to Draw the Portrait of a Bird”) by Jacques Prévert. Since the Velvet Revolution, the original tour guide soundtrack has been made available.

Official website (cz, en, de)

Death’s-head Hawkmoth

October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Self portrait with skeleton by Marina Abramovic

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Self portrait with skeleton by Marina Abramovic 2003


December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dalí y la calavera, 1951 Philippe Halsman.

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