It is sometimes difficult to determine where bodies begin and end. Different technologies extend and transform the body and its capacities, stretching the agency of the person through time and space. These technologies affect deeply held beliefs about what bodies are and what it is to be human.
Tools were first developed by human ancestors over two million years ago to enhance the potential of the human body. Various prosthetic devices, from artificial limbs to pace-makers, continue to transform the body. The concept of the cyborg, a person whose abilities are extended by devices built into the body, suggests that people may one day choose their own embodiment, or have it chosen for them.
The artifacts on display reveal that persons may be channeled through bodies and distributed in various things. Objects such as votives, relics and memento mori, which represent parts of the body and often contain human remains, extend the presence of the body beyond its corporeal form. The assemblage of the Mongolian household chest maintains relations between bodies during their physical separation.
Advances in biomedical science also challenge the way we think about the body as a bounded, singular form. Through transplantation surgery one body can be enhanced with organs or cells from another. The body appears as an interchangeable entity that can be composed from parts of different people, animals and machines. New research in these areas promises significant health benefits while raising serious social and ethical challenges.