History of Art students may be interested in ‘The Body Extended’ exhibition currently showing at the Henry Moore Institute.

Comprised of a series of sculptural pieces, the exhibition concerns itself with distortions, reconfigurations and morphings of the human form in the face of military casualties. The implicit debate underlying this series of broken bodies: to what degree is personhood fashioned by physical identity? How far can a human figure be altered before it ceases to be itself? And can it ever be restored?

To be physically bludgeoned, the exhibition collectively suggests, is to be psychologically and socially bludgeoned – where men have been physically diminished, hewn or truncated by modern warfare, rendered mere approximations of their former selves, their concept of self cannot help but be similarly blown to smithereens.

Attempts to resolve this identity crisis often serve only to trigger another; to seek relief in false appendages and prosthetics is, for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, to become part of a larger, industrialised body and to drive the idiosyncrasies of human identity into the remoteness of mechanised abstraction. Hence why Epstein’s Torso in Metal resembles more a suit of armour than its flesh-and-blood human analogue – where metal is soldered to man, such body modifications yield only anthropomorphic robots, one in a long production line of endlessly refined prototypes.

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