C is for Cannibalism

| March 4, 2014

I was recently having a conversation with some friends of mine about famous instances of cannibalism. We talked about the Donner Party, which was an instance in the mid 1800s when a group of people were traveling out to settle in California and got stuck in the mountains during the winter and the survivors, in order to survive, had to eat some of the other people who had already died. We were also talking about what’s known as the 1972 Andes Flight Disaster, which was a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, which had been carrying a rugby team and some friends and family. They also were trapped in the mountains and ended up eating the dead people to survive. So anyway I was talking to some friends about these things and then later on I was talking to another friend telling them about how I had been talking about these instances of cannibalism, and then they asked me if I was familiar with the painting The Raft of the Medusa, which is a painting done by a French artist in the early 1800s depicting survivors of the ship wreck who also resorted to cannibalism to survive. I had never seen the painting before and it was really interesting to have been having this conversation about cannibalism which is something that in our society has so much taboo around it, and then to be looking at this painting which is all at once beautiful and horrifying. It’s something that captures that moment of what am I going to do to survive, and creates an aesthetic around this notion of cannibalism which is seen as, in some cases, just about the worst thing someone could possibly do.