Dem Bones, Dem Bones

bodies-expoSo, have you been to this ‘Bodies Dublin’ exhibition then? Are you planning on going? It’s the expo of human cadavers that have been preserved in a very specific way and displayed to show various internal organs, muscles, blood system etc. Way too gory for you? Appalled by the immoral nature of it all?

When I read about this I thought, ‘Cool.. that might be worth a little lookey’. I’m a scientist by trade and I’ve always been a bit of a geek when it comes to biology and how things work, why things are one way and not another and how everything fits into it’s own little place in the grand scheme of things. But I’m wondering now if I have any issues with this exhibition, that I’d have have to pay in to see it and just how it was put together, what it represents and all that stuff;

The bodies in this expo are claimed to have been sourced by the Dalian Medical University Plastination Laboratories, which is in China, and the spokesperson and Chief Medical Director for the expo is Professor Emeritus Roy Glover of Michigan University. It is claimed that all the bodies in the expo died of natural causes. In fact they highlight that in some cases, it’s clear to see what the person died from due to the state of various internal organs on display. But there has been issues raised that the bodies may come from Chinese prisons. China, China, China – why don’t I like the sound of that? Maybe something to do with the country’s appalling record on Human Rights. In fact last year the expo was investigated by New York’s Chief Legal Officer and because the organisers couldn’t disprove that the people died from natural causes or that they didn’t come from Chinese prisons, all ticket holders were eligible for a refund. And then there’s the whole ethical issue of whether its right to pay in to see an exhibition whereby human cadavers are used as a form of entertainment – even if the organisers state that it is aimed primarily at medical students to aid the study of anatomy and as a teching aid in general to highlight the dangers of smoking, cholesterol etc and to show how a healthly lifestyle is reflected in our bodies.

There’s a part of me that is naturally curious and wants to go to this. If you’ve ever been near a dead person, you’ll know about that thought that you can’t get rid of, the thought that maybe just hours beforehand the lifeless, decomposing, ashen faced body was just as alive as you, maybe laughing and joking or crying or shouting, that there was once a hearty character beaming out from behind those now closed forever eyes. It’s always been something that’s made me wonder about how delicate life can be to see someone transformed in this way because of death. So, I know that if I went to this expo, I’d be wondering who the person was, what did they do in life, what kind of person were they. When I look at a painting in a gallery, I wonder how the artist chose his subject, was he sad or was it one of his favourite things? When I go to a museum and stand in front of an ancient sword or a piece of jewellery belonging to royalty, I wonder what tales they could tell from hundreds of years ago. So, maybe what I should be wondering is whether the people that once owned these bodies should be allowed the privacy and respect of a burial plot and a headstone.


8 responses to “Dem Bones, Dem Bones

  1. Great post. The only reason I wouldn’t go to see this exhibition is because I’m unbelievably and mind bogglingly squimish and would faint upon clapping eyes on the first exposed muscle…

  2. I’d go if I were sure that the bodies were obtained with consent. I’m fascinated by it, but refuse to spend 16euro to offend the dead.

  3. monty – you might be surprised, as it seems to be presented quite clinically, if you get me

    clare – i think we’re prob thinking along the smae line! and maybe that’s a student price, but adults are €20, perhaps making it €4 more offensive?

  4. Hmmm. I don’t know if I could go. I find itreally interesting but like you Glitter, I can’t help but think about the life lead before death, and about how delicate life is, as you said. It might just be too much for my wee brain to handle!

  5. I have been to see this exhibition when it was in New York (and so was I!) in 2007, I thought that I would get freaked out, but I didn’t, its not like a dead body all bloody and gorey and that, it’s actually fascinating and quite beautiful really, especially the area where it’s just veins, arteries and capillaries back lit so they sort of glow. It’s like delicate lace.
    There is one section which is closed off so that you don’t have to go into it, enclosed inside are babies, and one pregnant woman, I cried in there, because it was so sad that these babies and a woman who was almost full term with a baby in her womb had died, but the way they were laid out was quite beautiful, they don’t look like dead bodies, they are not grey or pale or anything like that, they are there to be looked at yes, they are there because someone spent hours and hours on each one preserving them with the plastinisation process so they are un changed from the moment of death. Most of the people who were there at the same time as me were Med Students from New Yorks various universities, you are not allowed to take photographs inside, you are not allowed to touch the bodies, but you can learn so much from this exhibition, so if you think that you won’t be too freaked out by something that looks like an alive person, you should go. Definitely I would recommend it to everyone.

  6. well said Babs.. certainly a lot of valid points for both sides of the argument in general
    i suppose it’s a v personal thing whether to go or not and i certainly wouldn’t doubt it’s a very interesting way to spend a coupel of hours!

  7. I was really cagey about going in the beginning until my friend (who I was staying with in New York) pretty much dragged me to it having been to it a few days previously. I then entered with an open mind and thoroughly enjoyed it so if you or anyone is going to I would do the same, don’t go in thinking you are going to be freaked out, go in thinking “maybe I will learn something today”, like what cancer looks like, what the human body (a real human body) looks like without skin, what makes the muscles in your body move, and much much more.

  8. Pingback: ENGLISH MUM: A shining star of wonderful gorgeousness » What I done this weekend, by English Mum aged 38 and three quarters

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