The Exhibition

Created by Tal Adler with Linda Fibiger, John Harries, Joan Smith, Anna Szöke, Maria Teschler-Nicola, Ola Wojtkiewicz, Callum Fisher, Francesca Lanz and Jacopo Leveratto

The Dead Images exhibition brings to light the legacy of contentious collections of human remains by exhibiting a life-size photograph of one such collection, a gathering of more than 8,000 skulls held in the Natural History Museum of Vienna.

Though 30 metres long and 3 metres high, the panorama itself is invisible at first, but not entirely inaccessible. If the visitors actively decide to do so, they can cross through a  passage and find themselves face to face with the image. Cameras and phones are prohibited. When visitors exit, they can find someone to talk to, and a room with research material and interactive stations that allow them to process and mediate their experiences, adding their personal perspectives to the ones already exhibited. There will be spaces for reflection, allowing visitors to consider the complex legacy of these contentious collection.

At her interview for the Dead Images exhibition, Laura Peers from the Pitt Rivers Museum talks about the skull-cabinet panorama and the ethics of display of human remains. Photography © Tal Adler, 2018

The presence of the photograph is defined and marked by a series of filmic installations, engaging the visitors from the front side of the construction. Through these cinematic chapters we portray different perspectives on the two collections and on the exhibition itself. In one of these filmic chapters, for example, narrators refer to the panorama; they variously commend, condemn or analyse it. Other chapters explore current research practices and future prospects of learning from these collections; different religious, spiritual and cultural mortuary practices; calls for repatriation and historical justice; and the role and responsibility of photography and art in wrongdoings of the past and in their hopeful reconciliation.

The exhibition will first be shown in Edinburgh from 28th June until 25th August 2018. For more details regarding the Edinburgh exhibition, click here. This opening of the exhibition will be accompanied by the Dead Images conference.