Creepy Austrian Plasticizes

Body Worlds...was underwhelming. At times it was downright nauseating, mainly because they had the beat of a heart in the background of the main exhibition. Everywhere we went, thump, thump, thump, amplified. I felt like I was in a 1950s deterrent film about the horrible outcomes of drinking or sex or marijuana. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Bad curation, bad! In addition, since the "theme" was about the heart (though there were also lots of displays that were not specific to the heart), they had lots of tiresome cliches posted on the walls about the heart and extrapolated the biological to the social and emotional. Blah blah blah, love, heartache...blah blah blah. Such a cynic. I found it unnecessary and uncompelling.

Then there were the bodies. At first, I found it mildly intriguing. But after a while the endlessly dissected, bisected, flayed, butterflied, fileted bodies were just plain overwhelming. At first it seemed that they were only using male bodies, which I found odd. Later in the exhibit came the women's bodies, but now that I think about it, the women were always in "graceful" poses. There was one woman crouching and pulling a bow and arrow with her brain, inexplicably on top of her head, as though it were an elegant hairdo. It was beyond bizarre. Also, it seemed that every version of the female body managed to expose her genitals, which to be fair, none of the men got to have any modesty, either; but it's not that hard to keep women's legs closed, now is it?

The whole experience made me want to be a vegetarian, as the bodies looked like...well...duh, meat. I didn't feel the unease or uncanniness that I expected as I looked at organs and veins disembodied from their bodies. Nor did I find the contortions and displaying of human form as objectionable as I anticipated. There is something about the museum setting that allows for distancing, allows for one to feel as though one were an objective observer. This is something the Museum of Jurassic Technology plays with, at least, the idea of curation as forcing a reverence or respect for the displays, regardless of content. Though that analysis doesn't totally translate, because I'm not sure I felt "respect," but I did feel compelled to be "curious," even when slightly revolted. I found the cross-sections of bodies the most fascinating, as they better represented the interconnectedness of things for me (the horizontal slice).

Still, I did expect to feel differently at the end. Perhaps after a night's sleep (assuming I don't have nightmares), it'll be more coherent. I'm not sure I'm going to write an official "fieldnote" on the experience, so I am haphazardly sharing it here. I am curious to know more about this Von Hagens. I find the whole endeavor a combination of being highly suspect and also a classical scientific fascination gone slightly awry.

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