TCD's Anatomy building

Delighted to have been asked to write an accompanying text for Fionn McCann's eye-poppingly perfect photographs of Trinity's anatomy building (where I spent some time many years ago, almost blind to its beauty).

Here is Fionn's dedicated website >>

Here's what I wrote:

Coinciding, as if by design, with the tercentenary of medical education in Trinity, the University of Dublin's School of Medicine is relocating to the magnificent Trinity Biosciences Development. This new home for preclinical training and bioscience research also means a new setting for the College's Department of Anatomy.

While embracing the progress, we benefit from looking to the past, and so the photographs taken by Fionn McCann of the interior of Trinity's historic Anatomy Building are not conservative, but rather philosophical and progressive. In multiple ways these serene images elucidate the workings of the human eye, and by extension, human anatomy.

In a number of the photographs we see drawings, paintings and sculptures of the human form as musculature and as skeleton. These are the work of Cecil Erskine, Professor of Anatomy here from 1947 to 1984. Many are copies of and tributes to Vesalius' famous anatomical drawings which in turn pay tribute to the latest discoveries about the body in the sixteenth century; and thus through McCann's photographs we are under the spell of a chain of representations: pictures of pictures of pictures.

But McCann's images are more about the setting of Erkine's homages, not only recording the building's design and contents, but also surveying the patterns and symmetries of its form, assaying the ‘eye’ of the designer, the viewer and the artist for what we ‘see’.

And though we do not actually see cadavers or details of anatomical specimens, we inevitably find ourselves filling in the spaces and inferring such details from our store of information and previous experience. The spaces McCann creates await and even call out for action. They are sets or stages, a little like the landscapes used by Vesalius in which to pose his anatomical figures, only in Fionn's case with the human forms mostly in the wings, or absent altogether and implied.

Imagine Erskine's Vesalian forms climbing off the walls to take centre stage and fill the spaces, or, less fancifully, call to the mind's eye the bodies, teachers, staff, students and visitors who have acted out their parts here for nearly 200 years, donating, embalming, dissecting, studying, teaching, learning, researching, maintaining and moving on."

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