Before the exhibition

Before I entered the Body World exhibition, i was unsure exactly what i was going to see. I knew from the media what the exhibition was about and what it contained, i.e. a number of human bodies that had been preserved and opened for the public to see. I had seen the images on TV and in posters, but I did not know how they would appear.

I had images of crudely put together fake bodies that would make me laugh and mock them, rather than shock me by their reality. So that was the thought i had when i entered Body Worlds, I was curious in the extreme and not at all scared by the prospect of seeing inside my body, although my girlfriend would not go in the exhibition and spent an hour drinking coffee and making phone calls in a cafe across the road. Her sister on the other hand, like me, was very interested in what was on offer in the exhibition.


Seeing is believing


The exhibition began by introducing the human body to the viewer, it was all very tame showing a skeleton and bits of bodies, mostly bones. I think it was a chicken-out point. "If you don't like this, do not carry on further" an
imaginary sign seemed to say.

Upon entering the second part of the exhibition the viewer was confronted by the first of many plastinated bodies, this was not a shocking sight, in fact my first thought was that doesn't look very real.

I was surprised by how the bodies were not behind glass or at least behind a cordon, the viewer could get up so close so as to look in side every part of the body on display. The only attempt to stop people mucking about with the bodies was a small "do not touch" sign on the base of the stand. I think that most people would not want to touch such a display even if allowed which is why there was so little security, however i couldn't resist!

The displays on offer ranged from full bodies in various poses, to body parts, both internal and external. The exhibition started well; introducing different parts of the body for the viewer to see, and complementing the
descriptions with a body showing the aspect of the description.

Unfortunately, whilst the science aspect of the exhibition was prevalent all the way round, the artistic, and potentially controversial aspect of Dr Von Hagens creations got more evident the further you moved round the exhibition, most notably the Harry Potter esque display.


I learnt as I walked round the exhibition that; the arteries in your neck are not at the front but at the side, a diseased lung looks far worse than a diseased liver, the stomach takes up some of the space that a lung should and thus everybody has one lung that is smaller than the other, the human brain is actually quite small compared to the size of the head.

Looking at the bodies prepared for me, i couldn't help but think how easy it would be to fake this exhibition, The skeletons could easily be covered with fake muscles and the organs could have been made from paper or rubber,
and all the models appeared to have been touched up with paint and had fake eyeballs, re-applied lips and eyebrows, thus adding to their fake look. Perhaps the biggest problem i had with them was an internal one, I had issues making myself believe they were real. I couldn't believe that what i was seeing was what was inside me!

One of things that made it a bit more real for me, was to see the dentistry work on one model, and the tattoos on another, i felt that was a level of detail that would be harder to fake, and thus a faker wouldn't bother.


Reflecting upon the exhibition i feel that the fantastical side of the displays made it seem unreal, I feel that if the bodies had been positioned in more natural poses and in more natural surroundings, it would have been more real for me; an example would be of a man sitting in a chair, or lying on a bed.

Perhaps the fantastical was the point, the exhibition was designed to teach without scaring, certainly a swimmer cut in half suspended from a frame allowing you to walk around both parts is not part of everyday life and would not scare and disturb as much as a body in a coffin.


I do not think that the exhibition deserved the controversy that surrounded it. There was really nothing there to offend or horrify the general public, as long as you are open minded. The majority of those who condemmed it, did so without seeing for themselves what it was all about.

If there is some controversy that is deserving of this exhibition, it is the stories of Russian donations to the exhibitions actually being bodies stolen from a mourge and sold to Dr Von Hagens, then the relatives of the body bury an empty coffin none the wiser.



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