chapter  17
14 Pages

Ball Pool Anatomy: On the Public Veneration of Anatomical Relics

In 2004, to mark the university’s 390th anniversary, Groningen University Museum decided to display some of its exhibits in unusual and thoughtprovoking settings. One of the installations, created by Dutch media genius and artist Wim T. Schippers, was particularly poignant (see Plate 9). It represented a ball pool such as one might find at Ikea. However, it was not filled with lively, living kids, but with eighteenth-century infant skeletons. The striking thing about the whole set-up was that the skeletons looked as if they were really enjoying themselves. The provocative nature of the installation did not go unnoticed. About half the visitors were appalled, for one is not supposed to make fun of dead children – they simply judged it unethical. The other half – among them many children – loved it.2 And why not? Children, by their very nature, delight in ball pools, so why not represent infant skeletons in a position they would have thoroughly enjoyed had they been children in real life?