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Gregory Whitehead &
John Dryden The Bone Trade


  • Archive, Archive Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • June 1. 2003 - June 22, 2003

During the first three weeks of June 2003, MASS MoCA screened The Bone Trade, a film-turned-video installation which features, in ambiguous documentary form, the strange underground market for celebrity body parts. Lips, fingers, eyes, and much more are all for sale in this work by Gregory Whitehead and John Dryden. The installation was presented in association with Fantastic, a survey of art at the crossroads of visionary social design and paranoid delusion. The MASS MoCA installation was the first United States screening of the film.

The Bone Trade is a journey into the murky market and morality of Walter Sculley, a successful dealer in “corporeal memorabilia.” As the fictional Sculley explains, “Think about how excited people get about owning an autograph. Then imagine the excitement if you could own the hand that wrote the autograph.” The video includes three portraits of Sculley’s customers/collectors: “Harry,” a Garland enthusiast; “Rob” who built his collection around Trotsky’s spine; and “Jackie,” a specialist in the glamour category of American first ladies.

With a run time of approximately 15 minutes, The Bone Trade showed continuously during museum hours.

Gregory Whitehead, who wrote the screenplay and also stars as Walter Sculley, is a playwright, performer, and media artist whose work frequently walks the tightrope between reportage and fiction. His radio adventures, mockumentaries, and audio cartoons have been broadcast throughout North America, Australia, and Europe. Whitehead is the former director of the International Institute for Screamscape Studies, and presently presides over the sprawling Laboratory for Innovation and Acoustic Research (LIAR). A co-editor of the book Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde, his writings on electronic media, shock culture, and performance have been widely anthologized. He lives in the Berkshires, and is the proud owner of a single hair from the head of Queen Victoria.

John Dryden (director) is the director of numerous award-winning BBC documentaries, plays, and adaptations, including Bleak House, Fatherland, Hotel Europa, and A Handmaid’s Tale. He is a founder of Goldhawk Universal Productions, and wrote the radio play adaptation of the Vikram Seth novel, A Suitable Boy.