Friday, June 25, 2010

Our Body: the Universe Within vs. BodyWorlds, an immoral spoonful of the same bullshit

I visited an exhibit called Our Body: the Universe Within with my “little brother” last week. It’s an installation at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center (until September 22) that calls back the famed BodyWorlds exhibition. What is it, you ask? It’s collection of 200 cadavers, skinned and gutted and strewn about in dynamic vogue for macabre entertainment or a very real examination of the human body. The bodies are preserved by a “plastination” process for BodyWorlds and a “polymer impregnation” process for Our Body: the Universe Within. Both methods essentially replace organic material with a plastic substance that hardens and preserves tissue as it was when it was still metabolizing.
We were there for the education.
In fact, I had seen the BodyWorlds exhibit a few years ago in Houston and certainly wouldn’t have laid down $32 for an encore had I not thought it to be such an educational experience for an eleven year old. And he enjoyed it, to my delighted surprise. For two hours, we patiently studied each display, and though he asked no questions, he listened attentively to my every elaboration. I love saturating young sponges with knowledge and I equally love hearing my own handsome voice, so it was a win/win situation.
See, I noticed both the BodyWorlds and Our Body: the Universe Within specimens were entirely of Chinese origin. Ah, I take that back. The BodyWorlds website explains that they take their bodies from consenting donors who are fully informed of the “plastination” process. Their website never actually says they’re from China, and though the German company is weaseling out of my half-assed investigation for not providing full disclosure, I know reds when I see ‘em. As a parallel confirmation, the Our Body exhibition actually admits pooling their specimens from “accredited Chinese universities, medical schools, medical institutions, research centers and laboratories” for the Anatomical Sciences & Technologies Foundation in Hong Kong. But it’s okay because “In China, all donors (or their immediate family members) are clearly told that the donated bodies will be used for medical research and educational purpose.” Honestly, who gives a shit if donors are “clearly told” that they’d be used for educational purposes. Did they clearly know they’d be propped up and paraded around museums in the United States? That’s the stuff poltergeists are made of for Christ's sake.
My little friend and I were respectful and mature, and I hope he learned something that he will remember for a long, long time but I can’t get past the indignity of people donating their bodies to further science only to become a grotesque curiosity for the price of general admission. Perhaps my kicking tantrum is for nothing, but if so, Our Body: the Universe Within should add some plastified Americans to their carnival and see what kind of crowd that draws. If nothing else, they ought to at least consider rewording their public information if they don’t want people who still have gooey brains to call bullshit.


f8hasit said...

I went and viewed BodyWorlds when it was in Cleveland years ago. It was fascinating albeit rather macabre. I took my daughter with me who was only 9 at the time...she too, was rather quiet. I have to admit I didn't notice the origin of the bodies. I did think them rather small (by American standards)...but unlike you, I didn't give it another thought.

You are much more clever and deep thinking than I.

Anonymous said...

I went when it first opened ... I am glad your "little bro" enjoyed it but I must say I was a bit disappointed. Which may be my own fault ... I pumped my self up for seeing dead bodies but I was hoping to see a lot more of something that wasn't there. What is that you ask? I have no fucking clue. My demented mind did how ever like the chopped up ness of bodies. I noticed that on at least 2 of the "bodies / pieces" the bones & muscles didn't match up. Thank the holy lord that we don't have to put humpy dumpy back together. Then again I can pick apart anything. I wonder if the fetuses are chinese too

C. Andres Alderete said...

Nonsense, Nancy. Do you know how long it took me to figure out why you named your blog "function 8 has it"? Weeks.

Yeah, maybe "enjoyed" wasn't the best word I could've come up with, Anonymous Misty. Fascinated might be better. I'm sure the fetuses were Chinese too.

Dreamfarm Girl said...

And I thought they just shellacked all the skinned parts. I can't bring myself to go see this exhibit, Chinese or otherwise...I am fine and dandy just seeing the plastic parts in the doctor's office and using the never ending though often factually questionable teaching tool called the Internets.

Micheal Butler AKA JJ said...

Seen it bout four years ago, back in Oh Canada. It was very interesting and less grotesque than anticipated. There were many children in attendance as well. What did you think of the exhibits bottled display of unborn fetuses? Tell you what, I left the show, aghast at my thoughts on the subject of abortion.

Chindiana said...

there's a business in everything and the Chinese always find new and creative ways to find new avenues. Woulda thought would be cheaper shipping 'scientific research specimens' from Latin America to the States

Heather said...

I am still glad I didn't go see it when it was here in San Antonio. I saw the commercials for it over and over again and was having issues with my gag felux. Eventually I had to look away from the tv just to save my dinner!

Heather said...

*gag reflux* sorry about that, I'm a horrible speller.

carma said...

you were respectful and mature?????? I was not expecting that newsflash (I kid!) Could you imagine if they used American bodies - they wouldn't be able to fit in as many "models" and you def wouldn't have gotten your money's worth

C. Andres Alderete said...

Understandable, Dreamfarm Girl. The real McCoy has a strange effect.

There was a warning before the fetus display, JJ, but it would have been hypocritical of me to be outraged over their exhibition. They're people too.

They're are too many Latin American Americans here, Chindiana. There would have probably been an outcry or some nonsense.

Hmmm, I thought it was 'gag reflex,' Heather, but I'm just an everyman.

Well Carma, we were being respectful and mature but we were both wearing umbrella hats and juggling corndogs.

Chrissy said...

Did you hear that Lady Gaga wants to "borrow" some of the bodies to add to her stage show?

C. Andres Alderete said...

What a skank.

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