They say the human body is a work of art, and I think it's safe to say that concept is genuinely tested in one of the most fascinating, controversial, macabre and somewhat disturbing exhibits of recent times, Bodies Revealed, which is now at Foxwoods Resort Casino through Sept. 6.
For the uninitiated, the traveling exhibit features actual human bodies that have been skinned, dissected and then preserved through a process called plastination, which essentially involves replacing body fat and water with plastic. All the bodies on display have been voluntarily donated by those who specifically willed their remains be used in the exhibit, which is the brainchild of German anatomist Gunther von Hagens (his website is in German) who perfected the plastic preservation process about 15 years ago. The specimens range in age, size and shape, and are posed in various positions, creating an experience somewhere between art and science class, damned curiosity and morbid exploitation.
From the Bodies Revealed website:
As the visitor moves from gallery to gallery, the exhibition uses 14 full body human specimens and over 200 organs to tell the story of the miraculous systems at work within each of us every second of our existence. Rooted in the historical precedent set by such great anatomists as Vesalius and da Vinci, each full body specimen is dissected to best reveal the function of a complete anatomical system and to show that system’s relationship to the body as a whole. The full body specimens are complimented by presentation cases of related individual organs, both healthy and diseased, that provided an even more detailed look into the elements that comprise each system.
As you might expect, Dr. von Hagens and his traveling anatomical peepshow have more than raised eyebrows during multiple tours around the globe, drawing criticism as well as large crowds -- over 26 million visitors have seen various incarnations of this show, making it among the most popular exhibits of all time. As it involves genuine corpses, it was banned in numerous places at first, but now that the original shock and outrage has worn off (and it has generated lots of cash), it has been welcome at more and more locations.
A real dead body in a coffin at a wake gives me the heebie jeebies, so I have to think an exhibition hall full of them in various poses with their innards exposed would be the stuff of nightmares for me. Yet, I find it quite compelling, and just may go visit later this summer. I'll keep you informed ...