Way back in 1977 Gunther von Hagens created a remarkable technique called plastination, which is simply an anatomy procedure that replaces the fat and water in a corpse with plastic.
With such a discovery in the field of medical science, von Hagens had to patent it and eventually brought it international attention with his greatest subject…Michael Jackson.
Hmm, too soon?
For the next twenty years Dr. von Frankenstein continued to expand his plastination procedure going from small specimens to whole body specimens to the founding of the Institute of Plastination to his most famous accomplishment, Body Worlds.
The idea behind Body Worlds is to have corpses positioned into lifelike poses to form some sort of educational/art exhibit hybrid.
The first Body Worlds exhibit took place in Japan in 1995 and hasn’t slowed down one bit since. The exhibition has showed up in 50 cities throughout Asia, Europe and North America and capturing some more than 26 million visitors.
With such a unique exhibit, you know seeing a person skinned and dissected to muscle and bone and then posed like an action figure, von Hagens and his Body Worlds have been a part of a lot of controversy.
Obviously, there’s a religious concern. The Catholic Church and members of the Jewish community have been vocal in their distaste of Body World.
In 2007, the Bishop of Manchester began a crusade against von Hagens, believing that Body Worlds will deprive the National Health Service of organs for transplants. He also launched a website where people can get facts and sign a petition against Body Worlds.
There’s also a disturbing, and rational, concern over where von Hagens receives his cadavers. It has been speculated that he has received bodies from hospital patients in Kyrgystan and executed prisoners in China.
In fact, in 2004, he returned seven corpses to China because he could not prove that they weren’t executed prisoners. Earlier this year, a French judge ordered the exhibit to be closed so the deceased could receive a proper burial.
It’s even been argued that Body Worlds is sexist. Some believe that because men are forever placed in heroic and manly positions like riding a horse, playing chess or shooting some hoops. Women, on the other hand, are placed in stereotypical positions, like one having her opened up to expose her womb with an unborn child, to girly activities like yoga or figure skating.
Shit, even animal rights activists were after von Hagens after he plastinated a gorilla in 2003 because he did not have the legal right to the protected animal. However, the Hanover Zoo, where the gorilla resided, gave it to von Hagens so we could compare humans and gorillas. Since the exhibit has featured animals, such as horses, camels, reindeer and giraffes, expect more of these incidents to pop up.
Then there was some uproar back in May over the exhibit “Life Cycles,” which showed cadavers from birth to death. Obviously there was concern over using little corpses and there was even a pair doing the nasty.
I guess Von Hagens liked that last idea.
The “Cycle of Life” exhibit opened in Zurich in September, which featured more cadavers having sex. Yup, that’s right. Two skinned people getting it on, forever and forever. A German politician called it “revolting” and “unacceptable”.
Hey, this is probably the best way for someone to have their body stored after they die. I mean you could either be worm food, cremated or set in plastic and placed in a sexual position. I think I’d sign up for the last one.
Despite all the controversy, that will surely continue; Body Worlds is still rolling along, and has no sign of slowing down.
The exhibit continues to tour around the world fascinating and disgusting thousands of people. As of 2008, there are 8,600 future Body World donors worldwide.