Marja-Leena Rathje
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Body Worlds


We saw an amazing, very educational and awe-inspiring exhibition yesterday - not really an art show**, but a science and health one based on the human body, Body Worlds.

I thought I'd feel a bit squeamish seeing real human bodies with skin, fat and liquids removed and then preserved by plastination. But no, it was amazing to see muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, and the beautiful filigrees of blood vessels and nerves in bodies posed in various sport activities. There were displays of individual organs, some ravaged by disease. Smokers would be appalled by the black lungs! We were left with a new found appreciation and awe for the complex and usually well-run machine that is our body. I enjoyed the historical references to early anatomical studies and drawings by artists like Leondardo da Vinci, making me recall an excellent exhibition of anatomy drawings at the Vancouver Art Gallery a few years ago.

Body Worlds has been and is still traveling around the world, so maybe it will be somewhere near you. I'd first read about it when it opened in Tokyo about two? years ago and was thrilled to see it here in Vancouver at Science World. Only a few days left here, so if you haven't seen it yet, go!

Both the Science World page and the Body Worlds official site are very informative about the plastination process, the donor program and additional educational resources like this student guide, a four minute video, and the amazing biography of the inventor of plastination Gunther von Hagens.

(**I'm going to place this in the art exhibition category anyway, as our bodies are the ultimate work of art as presented here!)

Marja-Leena | 09/01/2007 | 7 comments
themes: Art Exhibitions


wow - this sounds and looks fascinating. I would be a little squeamish at first too, but hope that the curiosity would win out, as it obviously did for you. I hadn't heard about this show - thanks for telling us about it!

Beth, I'm glad this is of interest. My husband and I can't seem to stop talking about it! We now wish we'd bought the book. Did you notice that it is coming to Montreal in May? I do hope you will go see it, it's worth the time and money!

M-L, while I agree that the body's complex structure is fascinating and I have no problem with looking at it inside or out, I have to dissent on the methods and angle of this Von Hagen entrepreneur. His anatomical circus played over here for some time, and he did a "live" dissection for a TV audience which was grotesque. I have to say that I couldn't stand this ghoul. Then there's the thing that, according to some reports, he uses corpses which have not always been "donated". He has a factory in China where his workers "plastify" thousands of corpses for these performances of his. I'll take Leonardo any day!

Natalie, when I first heard about this, I also heard some of these kind of reports. However over time, they've been proved to be false, and the bodies are always donated, never prisoners. And the medical education profession backs him. Unfortunately, like many success stories, there are imitators who are not as ethical, it seems. I didn't find the show at all sensationalist with its emphasis on education.

I missed this in London and hope it will come back. But I did see the dissection series he did on TV which were very disturbing, but absolutely absorbing. They could have been too much of a performance, but they allowed a medical doctor to commentate & that brought a more clinical tone. I was interested to learn the reason for his black hat.

Apologies for my grammar - 'series' is of course a singular noun. Illiterate!

Anna, I think I'd be very disturbed watching a dissection! Now you've aroused my curiousity about the reason for the black hat!! And I didn't notice a grammatical error (maybe I'm illiterate too).