Thursday, 16 April 2009

Body Worlds.....thoughts.

I was going to reply to Fi's comment in the little box, but I filled it instead I decided on a copy and paste job:

I came out of the exhibition curiously unmoved and spent some time unpicking what the thought processes had been and why the reaction had been so flat.

Some of it was due to the ambiance - black backgrounds to show off the plastinates...this made a womb like quality to the exhibition and people were very much quieter than my previous experience of Body Worlds in Brick Lane. Whispered comments...quiet interaction. It was very different to the mirth and light I had witnessed in 2002 (I think that's when it was).

The other thing was that the venue (the O2 Dome) is/was just like a circus tent...this and the fact that some of the plastinates were encased in highly reflective glass cases - which reflected not only the plastinate that was enclosed, but also the onlooker and other adjacent specimines too - made the fairground/circus effect all the more surreal - it was sometimes almost like being in a hall of mirrors. This photo of an artist at work at the exhibition gives a taste of the reflections I refer to:

I think as a tool for medical students plastination is very valid........
BUT, on the whole, I think that the public market is a niche that has been jumped into and exploited without much thought as to the future.

Many plastinates are being produced - not only by the 'Body World machine', but other rival businesses....and they will be on earth for who knows how long. They will not decompose....they are truly non bio-degradable.

How will these plastinates be 'curated' in the future - what are the ethical/practical considerations behind this aspect of the legacy?

More interesting is the re-constructed concept of death being taught to a world wide audience. The didactic shows a clean, grief free demise...Death is displayed as upright, inert - having lost any abject or emotional quality.

We are told that death is represented in the exhibition, specifically by a plastinate shown walking up the steps of a tomb (designed after an anatomical image from the renaissance)......we are told that this makes us consider our own mortality...does it? Did it?

Don't get me wrong - the invention is brilliant - the positioning of the whole body plastinates is breathtaking - the anatomy very - very interesting.....well, for the likes of me, fascinating....but there is something missing.

From the perspective of someone who has had quite a broad experience of death......

Something really is missing.

Prof. von Hagens speaks of the "...need for unadultarated reality..."

I believe that the plastinates are, not unadultarated realities, but rather - as Bazon Brock terms "...real virtualities...".

Adittionally they might be seen in a way that Baudrillard used to describe onscreen or photographic images - as 'hyperreal'. They are indeed spectacular, however, they have lost the vital nature of death and sadly I think, we (the paying audience), have been lead to believe that it is not actually terribly important, it is something to wipe out and hide.

As such, the plastinates are works against death...they portray a skinned version of life and living, looking out at us and future generations through plastic eyes. They promise a new afterlife in a strange kind of posed limbo. These body donors, will become more like the people of an eternal carnival.

We learn about anatomy - possibly, but do we really learn about ourselves and our relationship with mortality?

I don't think so...I am with the little boy who shouts "look, the Emperor has got no clothes on..."

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Happy Easter.....

I have been a bit quiet on the blogging side - but busy enough elsewhere.
Pink balls on the golf course show up better in the 'rough' than the others and essays have been flowing thick and fast out of the house.

Death - well, I have cared for a number of folk this year, but most of them have been very much alive and unlike the embalming clients, have asked for return visits. Looking after feet has been a pleasurable experience on the whole and I look forward to collecting more regular clients as time goes on.

What else has been happening?.......the usual - scrabble on FaceBook....and River of Life in Dorchester
which has proved to be a real is so, so lovely to be involved in a church that doesn't consider a multifaith multi-path soul like me as a fact, I get to be involved on a very profound level, which makes me feel really humble and proud all at once! Somewhere buried on the site you even get to hear me preach, I have blogged about the AIDS service last December.

So, back to death. Hmm - I am currently writing about 'The Abject Didacticism of 'Body Worlds' and Bread Works'. Looking at Gunther von Hagen's plastinated corpses:
and the bread sculptures of Kittiwat Unarrom

This link is just one of many on the net - I just selected it at random as the pictures were quite fresh looking!

The essay is proving to be quite a challenge; while it's very easy to be descriptive - and I so want to be - it's a different matter when it has to be argued through the work of accepted death theorists and other philosophers......I have just finished a first draft and am going to sit on it for a bit, look again...make changes, then send it off for comments - I have hopes that my tutor will accept the tack I have taken!

So - lots of death theory. A trip to london to see the current Body World presentation at the 'Dome' want to know what I thought of it? Just don't get me's another post in itself I recon, however, why not go and read 'The Emperor's New Clothes' by Hans Christian Andersen - here's a link:

That ought to give you a bit of a clue.....!!!!