A Surprisingly Creepy Meditation on Disciplinary Anxiety
by Keith Leisner
The first thing about “Plastination! Unlock a World of Post-Mortem Possibility!” that strikes its viewer is the project’s style, which includes a humorous combination and arrangement of text, graphics, and even a lyric promoting the plastination process. Considering the project’s subject matter, the style vaguely recalls the absurdism of 1950s governmental materials instructing citizens on how to survive a nuclear blast. Indeed, this recollection is only intensified by the sarcastic language that Moreno employs throughout the project to describe plastination. Beyond its aesthetic effect, the connection between science and governmental propoganda is also significant for its historical and contemporary political relevance. The success of The Manhattan Project during World War II demonstrated the effectiveness of scientific progress and ushered in a national attitude that promoted science and technology. More contemporary, this prioritization of the sciences has had lasting effects on legislation for humanities in higher education.
An awareness of this cultural effect seems present in the project’s inability to definitely position itself. Although the top of the project supplies a breakdown of the steps in the plastination process, the project quickly moves into an implied critique of plastination as art when that art has become too far removed from its originating context. In this move from scientific explanation to artistic critique, the project cannot seem to decide what its focus is: the idea of plastinating one’s body for the advancement of scientific education, the artistic benefits of the process, or the justification of that process as art. Curiously, this lack of postionality seems to subtly reflect the current anxienties of the humanities despite the project’s seemingly unconnected subject matter.