Monday, 24 November 2008

Body Worlds: The Mirror of Time

Real bodies on display; the process of ageing explained
About six weeks ago, an advert for ‘a museum experience like you never had before’ caught my attention in Brussels and when I read the exhibition was coming to London I decided to give it a go. Last Saturday Set in the ageing O2 arena (the former Millennium Dome, in Greenwich) and it turned out to be one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. I realised Gunther von Hagens’ controversial and much talked about ‘Body Worlds’ exhibition had finally reached London.

In ‘Body Worlds & The Mirror of Time’ – as it officially is called – authentic human specimens, transformed through plastination, show the form, beauty, function and potential of the human body. Real human bodies, donated by organisations and individuals, are on display and it made me realise that we are not ‘one’, but actually consist of thousands of little organs, body parts, connections and processes. Without oxygen no brain function, without veins no heart beat and without muscles no movement. At any stage of our life cycle, the human body experiences changes and milestones. The changes that take place as the body moves through different experiences in its lifetime: at its most radiant and as it changes, matures and finally wanes. The exhibition shows the complexity and vulnerability of the human body through anatomical studies of the body in distress, disease and optimal health. The effects smoking and disease have on the human body are explained and illustrated. And what happens to your body if you drink away your problems for twenty years? What causes migraine and why do people get fat and what kind of effect do mental issues have on your physical state? All these questions are answered by real bodies, organs and other body parts.

German born Von Hagens, a scientist, is the inventor of plastination – the anatomical specimen preservation method that makes the presentation of aesthetic anatomy possible. Through ‘Plastination’, the post mortal body is transformed into spectacular anatomical figures – plastinates – that allow the public to see the human body as it has never been seen before.
As Gunther von Hagen (who likes to be called ‘the Plastinator’) recently said on BBC news ‘Body Worlds invites the visitor to navigate the inner terrains and outer borders of the human landscape.’ One of the most interesting bodies on display is the basketball player. This plastinate derives from the most muscular body donor plastinated to date. It demonstrates the skin modeling muscles of our body in a dynamic posture. While looking at it I suddenly did not feel so attracted to a fit body anymore.. The intestines have been removed in order to show the large back muscles at the rear of the abdominal cavity. The urinary bladder rests at the bottom of the small pelvis. The skull has been opened to reveal the brain.

Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds is an unique anatomical exhibition around the world, stemming from an established body donation program and using donated bodies. The bodies are currently also on display in Houston, Salt Lake City and Brussels.
(pictures by myself, and were - and need to be - taken with the permission of Von Hagen's management)