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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Saw Dead People

And they were among the most moving and amazing things I've ever seen.

Body Worlds is not only a display of ground-breaking advancement in the field of anatomical study and preservation. It is an artistic expression worthy of placement in the hierarchy of the greatest works of art throughout the ages. It is a celebration of the beauty found under our own skin. It is an exhibit designed to raise your own personal awareness about life. It is as moving and uplifting as any great story, any classic piece of music, and any renowned speech ever made.

I wanted to see the first tour of this exhibit when it came to Chicago in 2005 but sadly, missed out on the opportunity. When I heard a second tour was on the way I was determined not to miss it this time. I'd seen only a few photos before and was fascinated, but hearing the inventor of the Plastination procedure (the preservation technology that makes this brilliant display possible) speaking on a radio interview convinced me that I HAD to see this.

Body Worlds represents one of those benchmark moments in history where you come to the realization that if you miss the chance to witness it for yourself, you indeed have missed out on something that will be historically significant, morally conscious, and socially relevant for generations to come. Moreover, the process itself has revolutionized the study of the human body in such a manner that anyone in the medical fields would owe a debt of gratitude to the creator.

I'll save the explanation of the procedure to the website and the exhibit, but you are witnessing an artistic display of real human bodies. Through the art of Plastination, it is now possible to view anatomical figures in ways never before seen in real life and only conceived in the realm of science fiction movies before. Everything from sliced cross-sections of bodies and selected parts, to specific organs, and all relevant systems found within the human body is elegantly displayed and explained in layman's terms.

You find examples of all major organs in perfect health and in varying degrees of disease. You not only learn about exactly what arthritis, carcinoma, and hardened arteries are & how they develop, but you can see first hand what they look like. I assure you, if you are thinking of going on a diet, quitting smoking, or altering you life in any way to improve your body, this exhibit will do more for you than any commercial or testimonial.

Also represented are numerous examples of artificial body parts and replacements developed over the years. Have you ever wondered what an artificial hip or a replacement jaw bone looks like? All questions will be answered.

This exhibition has everything going for it in my opinion. It is artistic, educational, and entertaining. The presentation of all aspects of the inner workings of the human body are covered and done so in a manner that slowly eases you into the viewing so as not to make the squeamish lose their lunch. By the time you've gotten past the initial realization that you are standing inches away from exposed musculature and organs, you find yourself getting so into the experience that you're practically scanning the room hoping to find the next system or organ for your own education and edification.

Among the things I found most fascinating about this exhibit was that very few displays were covered by any sort of glass or protective barrier. There were tables with organs and delicate systems that featured some casing, but for the most part the full body Plastinate displays were open air, leaving you the opportunity to quite actually get as close to the figure as you wanted. If you wished to stick your head inside an open rib cage to see where everything sits, this is as close as you'll ever come.

Moreover, because these are actual human bodies AND artistic presentations (seriously, they are like statues), noting more than a simple sign reading, "Please Do Not Touch", was needed to keep people from sullying the exhibit. A wonderful combination of reverence for the dead and admiration for a great work of art provided an interactive experience like no other. If you've ever been at a funeral and were somehow disturbed by the sight of a dead body lying in repose, you'll be surprised to see just how much fun you're having at this exhibit as you are staring into the eyes of a man or woman, minus skin and skeletal structure, and looking on with what can only be described as awe.

Here's the kicker. If you really want to touch the Plastinated organs and body parts and can't resist the temptation presented before you, there is an actual touch and learn station within the exhibit. Actual organs and cross-sections of bodies are there for your personal inspection. You can hold a smoker's lung and not only see, but feel the difference between a healthy section and an unhealthy section. You find yourself eagerly wanting to hold a human kidney and liver, inspect a cross-section of thigh muscle and compare your structure to that of the specimen. If you're a person with a wicked sense of humor, my wife, you may want to quote a Monty Python film and ask, "Can I have your liver" just as your friend or in this case, her husband, is holding a liver. The possibilities are endless.

This exhibition is a life-changing experience. It brings about a sense of pride and awareness I've rarely felt before. The admiration for the scientific achievement cannot be denied and the sheer beauty and creativity of the full body specimens is something you'll not forget so long as you live.

I will be seeing a similar exhibit in Las Vegas this April and I am hopeful to see this exact exhibit with my older brother this weekend. It is well worth every penny spent and every second of time. I can't speak highly enough of this remarkable work.

Currently there are exhibits in Dallas and Phoenix here in the States. I've no doubt that there will be more. I'm thinking of donating my body after I pass. What a wonderful way to truly live on after your time.


Blogger Webmiztris said...

eww, I wonder if my lungs look like that...

I would absolutely check that exhibit out if I had the chance.

10:11 AM

Blogger Andy Land said...

I guess it depends upon how long you've been smoking, Dawn. Regardless, it's more than enough to get someone to at least think about it a whole lot.

The lung you get to hold at the touch station is about 75% that bad. You can actually FEEL the healthy parts and compare them to what the unhealthy parts feel like. The healthy part of the lung is soft and flexible and the unhealthy part is hard like a rock and doesn't move at all and THAT'S supposed to expand and contract as you breathe.

Too cool.

They also had a comparitive slice taken from an obese man and a "normal" sized man. The muscle to fat ratio alone was more than enough to get me back on my diet. It affected eveything from muscle mass to bone density. The arteries and veins, the nerve endings - EVERYTHING was radically affected to the detriment of the person and it is all there for you to see.

Once again...too fucking cool for words!

11:54 AM

Blogger Steven Novak said...

My brother recently went to see the show when it was in Chicago. I haven't asked him what he thought of it yet.


12:11 PM

Blogger Andy Land said...

Howdy, Steven.

thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'd be interested to hear what others thought of the exhibition myself. I am certain some folks truly hate the thing, but I'd be curious to hear why.

How did you come to find this here blog. I'll check out yours today.

1:05 PM

Blogger Kim said...

Awesome, would be worth the travel to see it.

2:15 PM

Anonymous sue said...

You are definately one of the "cool kids"...

8:06 AM

Blogger Michael Manning said...

Andy: I chose to pass on the show in Vegas. I already read the late Thomas Noguchi book, "Coroner". But before I you think you can blow up the photo of that girl in my Martini off to the right side margin? Nirvana! :-)

5:42 PM

Blogger Bud said...

If you donate, do it with a clause that says they have to run tapes of you doing stand up.

4:53 AM

Blogger golfwidow said...

The black lung. Gee, are, to da OSS. I still miss cigarettes, but I'm sort of glad I quit, now.

2:04 PM

Anonymous Fuzzy Grey said...

I can't imagine that the Vegas Bodies exhibit being better than the Chicago one. They didn't have as many organs for one to touch. I think it was a piece of lung and a liver or something, and not even two pieces of lung from which to compare and contrast...but they did have a frog faced fetus. (That's actually quite fun to say.) (See?) The only one that kinda weirded me out was the pile of skin. Anyway, truly a phenomenal, phenomenal exhibit and I, too, tell everyone to go. BUT ALSO, since there's a deal, you should also check out the Titanic exhibit if you haven't already. Really, really cool. They have a huge chunk of Titanic there. I was never really interested in the Titanic (I haven't even seen the movie), but it was still a neat experience. Also, if you use the audio guides, get the one for Bodies, but not the one for Titanic. Hope to see you soon!

2:32 PM

Blogger Andy Land said...

I'm hoping to check out Bowdy Worlds 3 when I am working in Phoenix this May.

No desire to see any of the Titanic exhibit. We had that here at the same museum and I happily let that pass me by. No thrill, nostalgia, nor feeling of history missed on my end regarding the Titanic.

We never use the audio tours. It is always way more fun to discover on your own by reading the signs and enjoying the exhibit.

Not sure how much time we're going to have to visit this time around, Fuzzy. Looks more and more like we're getting our dance card filled with business meetings on top of our fun. We'll see.

3:10 PM


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