Art, science, or just plain twisted?

Wed Nov 29, 2006

It’s been a wild weekend for us. Record snowfalls hit the western seaboard, burying the lower mainland under two feet of snow. It’s all anyone’s talking about, and rightly so, Vancouver usually gets a light dusting, if that. I attribute these strange weather patterns to climate change, but that’s probably because I also watched An Inconvenient Truth this weekend, which everybody must see. It just came out on DVD, so you have no excuses.

I also got to see the Body Worlds 3 display at Science World. I can’t say that it was my cup of tea. Can somebody please explain what is so artistic or scientific about a real corpse holding up his own skin? Or for that matter, an unfortunate body that has been neatly cut into three pieces from head to toe. Or a dead guy doing the splits while balancing his own innards and internal organs in one hand? Or a skeleton kneeling at a cross while cradling her own heart in her hands?

It’s almost as if the scientist who did this is saying “See what modern man can do. Severe the skin so cleanly from a man that people will actually pay $30 to see it.” The look of pride on the skinless man is palpable, but it is the arrogance of Guther von Hagens that shines through the dead man’s plastinated eyes. In my opinion, the whole display was designed to shock, not to educate.

Yes, you can argue that these folks donated their bodies to science, but nowhere on the consent form does it say mention what weird position your body is going to be contorted into. You can argue that it teaches people about the human body. I certainly didn’t learn anything. I don’t remember any of the Latin names for the various muscles that were printed on the little plaque next to the corpse. In fact, I don’t recall anyone at the exhibition reading them. There is just no justification for putting corpses on display except for self-edification. Would you want to be immortalized as the skinless man?

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