Thursday, September 18, 2008

Body Worlds' Fiber Art

[Exhibit preview] Until today, I never thought humans were the stuff of fiber. But a tour through Body Worlds 3 and The Story of the Heart, opening Sept. 19 at The Leonardo, revealed a certain "fiberosity" of being: Nerve fiber, muscle fiber, organ fiber, lung fiber, fibrous tendons, even the vast blood vessel network surrounding organs and muscles—when isolated and highlighted like it is in this exhibit—looks like a fine mesh of fiber, or fragile red baby's breath.

And who knew the spinal column is rather drenched in blood from a dense mesh of vessels and capillaries that attach onto it? Seeing how interwoven these vessels are, how needy each organ, muscle and bone is for blood, makes one appreciate what a colossal bummer a heart attack might be.

My observations will no doubt make Dr. Angelina Whalley (above) happy. She wants me to think about my body and treat it nice. Quit my vices. Get fit. Revere it, even.

Whalley's the wife of the exhibit's creator, the mad-anatomist and Plastination patenter, Dr. Gunter von Hagens. She also serves as designer of the exhibits.

Creating this exhibit, for her, borders on a religious experience. At today's press conference, she noted that going back to the days of the Renaissance—when bodies were dissected and examined in churches—looking inside the body is a chance to examine "God's work."

As the 47th city to host Body Worlds, Salt Lake is a bit overdue to receive this exhibit. But at least, it's given Body Worlds a chance to work out all the kinks. Apparently, when they first kicked it off in Japan in '95, they displayed the bodies in straight-forward upright positions. The Japanese said it was too scary. So the von Hagens began positioning bodies into striking poses, highlighting the muscle groups needed to make such movements.

I'd show you some but Body Worlds won't allow posting their photos on blogs.

Thus, you'll just have to see for yourself, starting tomorrow at 10 a.m. at 209 E. 500 South. And/or wait for Brian Staker's upcoming review in City Weekly. And/or read this week's Five Spot.

And good on you, Leonardo. Nice to see the old library come alive again, even if it's filled with dead people. (Jerre Wroble)


  1. is it just me, or is this exhibit creepy and disturbing? I'm sick of seeing these images of flayed bodies all over the newspaper, and when I open it up to a full page spread of some poor Chinese political prisoner who has been violated like this, I just quickly close it up again. This is nothing but pornography.

  2. Jerre, it was great to get your take on the exhibit. Here's my review in City Weekly's October 16 issue:

    --Brian Staker

  3. This exhibit was not worth the money. If you have ever had an anatomy or physiology class, don't waste your time. I felt like I was looking at a cartoon.

  4. 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 Aaron Ginsburg, Sharon, MA

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