by Pierre le Roux
A couple of weeks ago hubby, I and some friends went to the Body Worlds exhibition. If you have never heard of it before it’s an exhibition of dead people. And no, I am not fucking with you. It’s an exhibition where people who donated their bodies are put in weird poses, no longer have their skin and you can see their muscles, veins, organs and dangly bits. Also, they are not called corpses they are called plastinates. It is the brainchild of a very weird guy called Gunter von Hagens who is an anatomist. I am not sure how exactly he got the macabre idea for this. Maybe he was standing next to a cadaver while eating a sandwich and was all like “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we skinned this guy and a horse and pose them together like the guy is riding the horse?” Who knows? But having been to the exhibition I have some opinions about it that I would like to share with you today.
When I first heard of this exhibition I was really concerned about the people we were going to be gawking at. I mean how could I be sure they weren’t some homeless people who got tricked into donating their bodies with a Big Mac and a milkshake. I was also thinking about their families. What if you go to watch one of these exhibitions and you stumble across your grandpa’s head that is sawed in half. How do you explain that to your kids? “Hey kids look at grandpa. His head is doing so much for science. Aren’t you proud of how nice grandpa’s brain looks?” I wondered what the families of these plastinates did at their funerals and whether they got told what happened to the bodies. You know, so that they don’t go to an exhibition not knowing it’s their grandma in the sex pose with a twenty one year old.
Speaking of sex. I found the sex pose rather disturbing. Not because it was a man and a woman but more about how the set was constructed. Both plastinates were skinned but both had wigs on. Wigs that looked like a raccoon had slept in them. The woman had earrings in her ears that clashed with the ugly boots she was wearing. There was also some liquid on the floor that could have been semen and it didn’t look like either of them was enjoying it. Maybe the guy suffered from premature ejaculation and she was pissed because she knew that she would not get an orgasm. There was also an x-ray of a man and woman having sex with him penetrating her. When I saw that I first wanted to know who the hell would pose for an x-ray like that. Followed by thinking how awkward that must have been for the person taking the x-ray. All-in-all, the sex pose left me underwhelmed and pretty glad that I was gay.
Another thing I found strange was how perky all the women’s boobs were. Taking into consideration that most of the plastinates are old people, I was expecting to see a more realistic exhibition. You know with sagging tits, but no. All the women had C to D cup perfectly perky boobs and it kind of freaked me out. As for the guys, it is really difficult to judge how big their penises were without their skin and if you didn’t know this yet, the male sex organ as a whole is rather complex and I will never look at balls the same ever again. I must also admit that while we were there I felt a bit self-conscious about looking at all the genitals. You don’t want to look like a pervert and outright stare at them. So you try to do it as casually as you can. And by casually I mean pretending that you are a biology major inspecting a specimen for scientific purposes and totally not looking confused while looking at a vagina.
Something that I noticed while walking through the exhibition is how damaged some of the items were that were on exhibit. Some of the veins started to break off, some bones were cracked and you could tell that some of the plastinates were quite old already. You cannot really expect them to stay pristine forever, especially when they are moved around quite a lot. I also wondered how long a plastinate is kept and what they do with them when they are no longer in a condition to be on exhibit. Do they give them back to the families to bury? Do they get rid of it themselves? I really would like to know and this lead me to wonder who on earth would donate their bodies to become a plastinate.
On their website there is a section that deals with donating your body. This is something that I personally will never do. I am not sure if you can specify what they can and cannot do with your body after you die, but the mere thought of it makes me cringe. I also watched a couple of episodes of this Gunter von Hagens box set called “Autopsy” in which he performs live autopsies on cadavers in front of an audience. I should also mention that the audience consisted out of people who are donating their bodies and these people’s family members. How do you sit and watch how that man saws a frozen body in half, skin a cadaver and removes a woman’s pelvis knowing that he is also going to do that to you one day? Look, I have a strong stomach and I have been to autopsies before where the bodies were not embalmed and where there was lots of blood, but this was just creepy. Gunter von Hagens and his creepy black hat and German accent reminded me too much of Nazis which scared my inner Jew. I could only watch two episodes and since then I have been completely off eating chicken. If you watched it you’d understand why.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not trashing the Body Worlds exhibition or the work von Hagens is doing as it was interesting to go and look at the human body in a different way. It also forces you to think about your own mortality and impresses upon you how extraordinary the human body really is. I also saw diseased lungs that momentarily made me want to quit smoking again and I saw more vaginas than I care to admit to. What I did find disturbing was not so much the exhibition itself but, like I said earlier, the people who made this happen: The folks who donated their bodies and the people who are now making money off of them. It is a very macabre way to be immortalized, if that is what they think are doing. But even a plastinate can’t live forever. In the end we all return to dust.
Till next time.