Friday, May 27, 2011

Body World

 Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination
Heidelberg, Germany,

One of the perks of being married to a doctor whose employer paid to sponsor Body Worlds, an organization that doesn't come to parts of the world with population centers smaller than 3 million and our entire state just topped 3 million in the recent census and could hardly be called a population center, is that I got to be the guest to a private showing of the exhibit Body Worlds Vital. Being a student of the internet, I was familiar with the exhibit and thought it fascinating but never thought it would be something I would be able to see since it is mostly overseas. But a few weeks ago, the cards came together in the middle of the week and the daughter and I were able to drive up to the urban jungle (of a few hundred thousand souls) and meet my wife for a private viewing.

When we showed up, there were tons of people waiting in a long line for free drinks and appetizers but the lady who handed up a parking validation said we were free to go see the exhibit at any time. So despite our hungry stomachs, we opted to go see the exhibit first. It was love at first sight and I had a hard time picking up my jaw off the carpeted halls. What I had expected were what you see in the two pictures attached to this post, human cadavers that had been preserved with a plastination technique into spectacular art forms. While those were there, there were also dozens of cases showing parts and systems of the body in ways that I have never seen before. One of the exhibits had all the blood vessels in a human body preserved and still in the shape of the human who had them though all tissues, bones and organs removed. Another exhibit had a mouth, tongue, esophagus, stomach, intestines and rectum all strung out without the rest of the body interfering with the view. Another exhibit had a set of healthy lungs by that of a career smoker and yet other exhibits compared slices of an obese man with that of a normal man, etc, so forth and so on. I walked from one exhibit to the next feeling like the blinders had suddenly been yanked off my eyes and I was seeing the light for the first time in a long time.

My nearly five year old daughter was a cause of concern when we decided to go to this event and because of my parents being in the fields and scheduling, she had to come with us. I'm actually glad that she did come because she was as blown away by the exhibit as we were. The first 'whole' body that she saw caused her to hide behind my leg but after that, she was up there right beside them imitating the poses and asking all kinds of questions about what she was seeing. At one point we had to break from the exhibits to go and hear a short presentation and our daughter spent that time constantly pleading that we go back to see the rest of the exhibits.

By the time we finished touring the exhibits of Body World Vital, we went back to the room where the free drinks and appetizers were being served and though they had been picked through, there were still some left and we had some fruit though we skipped the drinks since I still had to drive home with my daughter all the way from the urban jungle so she could go to school and me work the next day. The plus side was that the crowd that had been there were all now in the exhibit which had been nearly deserted during our tour. We made up for the loss of appetizers by going down a new Thai place for a late supper. I had larp which is a meat salad and considered the national dish of Laos and was delicious.

But back to Body World. If you ever have the chance to see this, even if it means driving two hours each way rain through a pouring rain storm like I did, do so. This was by far the best exhibit I have ever seen and I would go see it again in a heat beat if I am ever within a few hundred miles. You won't regret it.

Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, 
Heidelberg, Germany,


R. Sherman said...

The exhibit was here several years ago and I took a pass. All I could think about was walking through there and seeing somebody I knew.

(I wonder some Hollywood type has dreamed up a zombie flick using this exhibit as the starting point.)


sage said...

Sounds interesting, but I think I might have eaten first, considering some of the parts you'd be seeing! ;)

Ed said...

R. Sherman - From the way the representative talked, it sounds like people from all over the world donate their bodies now to the exhibit so the chances of running into someone you know would be slim. Really the whole exhibit emphasized that underneath our skin, we are all very similar.

Sage - There was no revoltion factor to any of the exhibits. They were done so well that the only emotion I felt was awe of the beauty of the human body.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Do they accept fat flabby bodies too? I suppose they have ways to remove all that nasty stuff eh?

Ed said...

Phil - They do and it was pretty amazing. They did vertical slices of an obese man compared to a thin man. In the obese man, you could clearly see the outline of the thin man within and outside the outline was solid fat. Within the outline was marbeling around the organs but other than that, looked much like the thin man.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Fascinating. My imagination went on overtime as I read the post. As a puppeteer and a teacher of physical motion and speech, I have studied a lot of anatomy etc. but none that compared. I hope to see the exhibit someday. (though it better be pretty soon coothood is giving way to the need to nap/

malor said...

I really, want to see this exhibit. I was about to this weekend but my husband worked and I was left with a very active toddler. I will pretty soon. Thanks for the review.

warren said...

I saw a version of this at the Luxor in Las Vegas...incredible I thought! It just didn't bother me in the least seeing insides. It is truly amazing!

Murf said...

I've been wanting to see this as well as the Mutter Museum in Philly. From what I gather, Lil A may need to stay home for that trip.