Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Body Worlds in Salt Lake City

I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of a free pass for the Body Worlds exhibit that is near Library Square downtown. If you have not seen it before, it is a "museum" of the human body - actual human bodies. The bodies have been preserved and every level of the anatomy is to be seen.

If you go, I suggest you spend a little time people watching. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. The medical students who prattled off a lot of 25 dollar words. The parents desperately trying to enrich their children; but the children don't want to read the signs they just want to move on to the next body. The giggling adolescents pointing at the sex organs. The middle aged woman softly weeping over a preserved 30 wk old baby. The solitary old man staring into the eyes of the lifeless body before him... time slowing to a crawl. I wondered if he was considering the remainder of his days.

For myself, I was impressed by the complexity of the human body. It was a wonder to see. I could never accept that it formed purely by chance.

I also felt a sense of sterility. The part of me that loves to hear and tell stories wanted to hear the stories of the people who once possessed these bodies. I wanted to see pictures of them from their life. Who were they? Who loved them? Whom did they love? What had they seen in life and what did they learn? I suppose there are legal and practical reasons for anonymity. I wonder if any others who saw the exhibit shared my questions?

6 comments:

prodigaldaughter2 said...

I've always wanted to see this!

Sherry said...

We saw an exhibit like this in San Francisco some years back.

It truly was amazing. My favorite was seeing the bodies posed in varying degrees of activity like running, bicycling, etc.

On the flip side these exhibits are often fraught with controversy and ethical questions.

Redlefty said...

We saw it in Houston a couple of years ago and loved it!

Aaron Ginsburg said...

Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. Slicing and dicing and displaying the human body for the titillation and amusement of the public is wrong. We need to preserve human dignity, and this is not the way to go about it. You will hear that the exhibit is scientific, educational, artistic, and inspiring. There is a shed of truth to each of these claims, but they do not justify the exhibit. The ends here do not justify the means. Just because something is in a science museum does not make it science. There are other ways to be educated. We can be inspired just as easily by looking at real humanity, as opposed to the plasticized versions. By the way the exhibits are already 90 percent plastic. Why not 100 percent? Perhaps this would not sell as many tickets. One of the more absurd claims is that this exhibit will promote a healthy life style by getting people to stop smoking, get more exercise, or eat less. Give me a break. One thing we can learn from this exhibit is how to overcome peoples scruples by hiding behind science, education and art. Exhibits like this turn human beings into a mere commodity.. it dehumanizes us, and cheapens the value of life. Stop these exhibits. For more information visit my website at http://dignityinboston.googlepages.com/ Aaron Ginsburg, Sharon, MA

Andrew said...

aaron - I appreciate your point of view, but I have to say that I don't agree. That disagreement comes from my experience with the exhibit. You say that there are other ways to be educated... I have been educated in all those ways, yet I never got the sense of the massive complexity of the human body that I got at the exhibit that day.

You say that it dehumanizes and cheapens life. It seems to me that is a totally subjective premise based on one's personal choice of how to view it. If I do not see it as dehumanizing, than is it?

MLH said...

Aaron,
Your approach is similar to that of the European world leaders in the 15th century. Leonardo da Vinci skillfully sketched detailed aspects of human anatomy, many of which we still see in medical textbooks today. Leonardo was accused of sacrilegious practices and was banned from dong anatomical investigations by Pope Leo X. If society "preserved human dignity" as you define, primitive ideology would continue and we would still be trying to wake up from the Dark Ages.

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