Swallowed and Saved

Please join me this Saturday at Observatory, where I'll be hosting an incredible talk by author Mary Cappello and artist Lisa Wood on objects swallowed!Swallowed and Saved starts at 7:00 at Observatory, and admission is $5.00.


An American half-dollar. An unspent matchstick. A beloved miniature swan stowed in a biscuit tin. A beaded crucifix. Tooth roots shaped like a tiny pair of pants. A padlock. Scads of peanut kernels and scores of safety pins. A porcelain doll prised from a throat. A metallic letter Z. A toy goat and tin steering wheel. Frozen twigs. Penny wafers. A Perfect Attendance Pin.

One of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum is the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection: a beguiling set of drawers filled with thousands of items that had been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design. How do people’s mouths, lungs, and stomachs end up filled with inedible things, and what do they become once arranged in Dr. Chevalier Jackson’s aura-laden cabinet? Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity and dread, author Mary Cappello and artist Lisa Wood will stage an illustrated reading based on two distinct but companionate projects to have emerged from Jackson’s foreign body display: Wood’s thirty-three original assemblages (The Swallowing Plates) and Cappello’s nonfiction book, Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them (The New Press). Like Jackson’s design and deft manipulation of endoscopic instruments, like his endoscopic illustrations and his scrupulous attention to the nature of each foreign body caught, Cappello and Wood’s work excavates the relationship between corporeality, desire, and the object world. Their dossier of images and of incantatory texts promises to combine the uncanny, the beautiful, and the informative.

Note: Several of Lisa Wood’s plates will be on sale and on view, and attendees will be treated to a sneak preview of Cappello’s book which appears this January 2011, as well as details regarding the re-design and grand re-opening of the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Exhibit in the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Does every human being have one of these Things to show for himself in his life’s hereafter?: as if to say, here is what is left of me: what’s left of me is that-which-was-once-within-me. For more on the Mary and Lisa, please go to the Observatory website