Journey Into a Lesser Known World

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:19 AM

Some years ago, when I travelled through Italy with the motivation of viewing the historic sites and art treasures, I spent a week in Florence. During my short stay I discovered a lesser-known museum. The Museum of Natural History and Zoology, on the Arno River, is a duplex of old houses. One, Museo Scientifico, houses the astronomical instruments of Galileo, including a large globe made from leather.

The other is “La Specola”, which is particularly proud of its collection of anatomic waxes, an art introduced in Florence by Ludovico Cigoli (1559-1613).
The wax collection, unique in the quantity and beauty of its pieces, was created in order to teach anatomy without having to directly observe a cadaver. All the body parts were on view, including embryos, etc. While chatting with the Curator, I asked him, “And where are the psychological parts?” (Ho-ho) He didn’t know what to say, and thought me to be some kind of weirdo.

Anyway, recently a small news item caught my attention that prompted me to recall La Specola”. Here is something to ponder: The average human body contains enough sulphur to kill all the fleas on an average-sized dog, enough carbon to make 900 pencils, enough potassium to fire a toy cannon, enough phosphorous to make 2,200 match heads, enough water to fill a 38 litre (10 gallon) container, and enough iron to make a 8 cm. (3 inch) nail.”

All this also made me think about a poem that I wrote in 1974 to accompany a 35mm colour & sound film made on my 100 mandala“Organiverse” series I painted in 1972 in Morocco and Madeira. The film was commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council and made by art-filmmaker, Julius Kohanyi, who amongst others, has also made a film on Rodin.

Here is the poem, accompanied by two mandalas from “Organiverse”, one in the original format, the other in “bioluminescence” imagery. (To view the "Organiverse" rotation set, go to vanBentum.org and click on "Organiverse Handset".)

While we work
The buds are born

While we walk
The fish swim

While we rush
The flowers unfold

While we laugh
The wounded cry

While we love
The elders die

While we sleep
The Earth spins,

And all this
Comes out of darkness

Henri van Bentum, 1974

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