Conflicted (graphic image alert)

The University is sponsoring Body Worlds 3 this summer which is advertised as ‘edutainment’ and I have to say I’m a little unnerved by the whole thing. I don’t have a problem with cadavers being used for educational purposes but partially dissecting bodies in an artistic manner to sell as entertainment is over the top. What ever happened to respect for the dead?

This specific show will feature the bodies in athletic poses such as skateboarding or cycling to show different physiological features yet they don’t tell you if the specimen actually participated in the sport they’re portraying. Not matching actual athletes with their respective sport provides a false view therefore, proving this show is more about entertainment than education. Of course it gets worse.

One of the earlier Body Worlds exhibits displayed a woman’s body carved in such a manner as to show the fetus she was carrying when she died. That’s pretty grisly. Another example is this picture of a body entitled ‘The Smoker’.

smoker.jpg

Isn’t leaving the penis unskinned while the rest of the body is skinless a bit sensationalist? Especially considering you’re demonstrating the ill effects of smoking?

Then there are questions regarding the origins of these bodies and whether the specimens on display were actually fully informed donors. The company behind the exhibit refuses to show a direct paper trail between the donor forms and the actual bodies citing privacy of the donor. I find that disconcerting and unethical.

My conflict derives from the fact that I do believe the human body is a marvel of science and I can see the educational aspect and even the beauty of this exhibit if it showed respect for the dead (and had proof the people actually agreed to have their bodies used in this manner). Lose the sensationalist entertainment aspect I might change my mind. As it is, it just doesn’t sit right.

Am I overreacting?

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9 responses to “Conflicted (graphic image alert)

  1. lazybythelake

    this exhibit came through atlanta a while back and it gave me the same uneasy feeling. i did not go to see it.

    strangely enough, i get the same queasy feeling with television shows like extreme makeover.

  2. This exhibit has been in Las Vegas too. Although I toyed with the idea of going, I never did.

  3. A lot of folks have the same reactions as you, so you are not alone.
    I liked it on the grounds it was raising people’s awareness of the body/parts etc. One can’t do that with ‘simple slides’ these days. so it is overall a positive thing for me.
    On the otherhand I didn’t learn anything!

  4. The exhibit generated a fairl bit of controversy within the msuem community when it forst opened here in Chicago. Partly, I have problems with the notion of edutainment in general. Spend enough energy telling people that learning is not fun, is difficult, and is best accomplished by sneaking it in while you are diverting their attention to something else and you will never instill a love of learning. Part of the theory is that this is somehow more democratic in that it makes learning equally accessable to all. In a sense it succeeds: it makes everyone dumb. [/hobbyhorse]

    My response to the exhibit was similar to yours, and I still find the whole excercise more than a little creepy. No, you are not overreacting.

  5. Rodg…
    I have to agree…I believe in creative expression but I believe there are certain boundaries you do not cross or certain components that deserve respect. While cadavers are necesarily for medical studies, they do not belong out in the free world to be looked as some form of art (skinning some parts and leaving other parts in tact, etc). The later pushes it all over the top!

  6. eeewwww. I passed on this as well. I would have gone to med school if I wanted to view cadavers. It’s kinda like deciding to create art with road kill, you could do it, and it could be beautiful, and educational, but why? It just gives me the heebiejeebies.

  7. i don’t think you’re overreacting at all. i notice on his website, there’s a link for those who want to donate their bodies for “plastination.” i seriously doubt the folks who donated their bodies to science were planning on being skinned, plasticized and exhibited riding skateboards.

    i think it’s wrong. boooo. don’t like it at all.

  8. The exhibit is currently in DC … friends of mine went to see it, and it seems that they actually DID learn a lot. However, I then heard from a friend that most of the bodies on display were Chinese prisoners who probably never willingly gave over rights of their bodies to “science” after death.

    So I have no interest in seeing it or supporting it myself.

  9. Eric – I’ve heard Chinese and Russian prisoners. Their consent from is strange also and they don’t keep a paper trail to the actually bodies so you never know if the person you’re looking at is actually a willing donor.

    I’ll be shredding my free pass.

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