Through an examination of examples from performance, museum displays and popular culture that stage the body as a specimen, Performing Specimens maps the relations between these performative acts and the medical practices of collecting, storing and showing specimens in a variety of modes and contexts. Moving from an examination of the medical and historical contexts of specimen display in the museum and the anatomy theatre to contemporary performance, Gianna Bouchard engages with examples from live art, bio-art, popular culture and theatre that stage the performer's body as a specimen. It examines the ethical relationships involved in these particular moments of display - both in the staging and in how we look at the specimen body. This is a landmark study for those working in the fields of theatre, performance and the medical humanities, with a specific focus on the ethics of display and the ethics of spectatorship, emerging at the intersection of performance and medicine.
Among the works and examples considered are 18th-century anatomical waxes from the Museo di Storia Naturale la Specola in Florence, Italy, and their contemporary version in the Bodyworlds exhibition of 'plastinated' corpses; organ retention scandals; current legislation, such as the Human Tissue Act 2004; the work of performance company Clod Ensemble and Stein|Holum Projects, the performer and disability activist, Mat Fraser and live artist, Martin O'Brien, alongside visual artists Helen Pynor and Peta Clancy , artists Peggy Shaw and ORLAN.