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Image from Beyond the Body: A portrait of autopsy © Anna Suwalowska

Beyond the Body: a portrait of autopsy’ is an art exhibition inspired by narratives of people involved in post-mortem procedures, depicting ethical dilemmas presented by the practice of examining the body across different cultures. Recognised as ‘learning from the dead’, autopsy has been of significant importance to medicine and science, but often a painful concern of the living.

The exhibition is a collaborative project between Dr Halina Suwalowska (Ethox Centre, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford) and artist Anna Suwalowska (Royal College of Art). The artwork inspired by Halina’s research, interprets the difficult questions posed and brings new perspectives on autopsy.

Here art explores a range of viewpoints; A pathologist asking if the rights of the living to know the cause of death supersede the rights of the deceased to keep their secrets; A Buddhist priest discussing five elements determining stages of death, but also the universe; A scientist introducing less invasive autopsy in children to minimise body disfigurement, describing difficult conversations with grieving parents, amongst others…

In April 2022 ‘Beyond the Body’ was shown at Michaelis School of Fine at the University of Cape Town as part of the ‘Diagnosing Loss’ exhibition, curated by Dr Nina Liebenberg (The Centre for Curating the Archive, University of Cape Town). Read a blog post written from the exhibition.