Body-part artist tried to `demystify death'

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The Independent Online
THE artist Anthony Noel Kelly used "beautiful" shrivelled body parts to demystify death and depict the cycles of life, he said yesterday.

He told a court he had no morbid fascination with death, but rather that his work was the result of his pursuit of knowledge of life. At no time did he consider that using the body parts, smuggled from the Royal College of Surgeons, might be wrong. "Seeing the objects I realised what I would turn out, what was inside me. It was very relevant," he told Southwark Crown Court.

"I felt that my work was very important and these pieces would help me explain the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of life ." Mr Kelly, 42, and a former RCS trainee lab technician, Niel Lindsay, 25, both from London, deny stealing parts of bodies from the college between 1991 and 1994. Mr Kelly alone further denies dishonestly handling them. The court has heard Mr Kelly paid Mr Lindsay pounds 400 to smuggle the pieces from the college's premises in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He then made copies which were displayed, burying the real body parts when he was finished with them.

"I've always been interested in anatomy. I suppose probably because we are anatomy ourselves and therefore it is the most relevant, the most direct way to inquire and to explain."

He told the court that in a bid to increase his knowledge - "that is the joy of life" - and to understand more about the human body, he used to go to watch operations at St Bartholomew's Hospital.

"So I literally opened up one of those large trays and took out a limb, or a torso, or a head to have a look, see what is underneath the skin, and that was an incredible period of research.

"I suppose I was demystifying death."

The trial continues.