BodyWorlds 2

The whole Icetray joined some friends up at the Maryland Science Center to check out the BodyWorlds 2 exhibit. If you’ve never heard of Body Worlds, it is an exhibit of what the BodyWorlds people call “plastinates”. Plastinates are people, real people, that have been preserved through a process that removes the body fluids an replaces them with a polymer or epoxy kind of stuff. We joked about whether they waited, or actively procured the bodies from drunken tourists or something.

That’s not really saying enough, though. You might think that this is just an opportunity for the average person to have a taste of what a medical school gross anatomy class is like. I suppose it is that to an extent and that would be enough to make it worth your time. That is only the jumping off point.

There are also words, descriptive, poetic, challenging and thought provoking writ large on the walls and psyche. The exhibit explores the brain, birth, health (it gets pretty darn pedantic on anti-smoking) and our relationship to the animal kingdom. One thing is for sure, the creators of the exhibit did not equivocate on their message. We are animals. We are physical beings.

The one thing it mostly wasn’t, was the one thing I expected. It wasn’t really gross. Sure there were some black lungs, cancerous growths, distorted hearts and a particularly cyst-y kidney which was disgusting. Yet, we practically ran from display to display, ooh-ing and discussing. It was a terrific experience though it wasn’t without its disturbing aspects.

While many of the bodies have been frozen for all time in postures that expose organs, or show how the body works during activity, a few are attempts at art. It is really these few examples that left me disturbed. The use of cadavers for education, especially of the masses, I find compelling. Taking the flesh and trying to express artistic intent, felt more like something for a madman in a horror movie. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

If you have the means and the exhibit ends up near you, I recommend you go. I’d also like to know what you thought about it.

“Man is an intelligence in servitude to his organs.” ~Aldous Huxley