Beyond Death: The Aesthetics of the Human Corpse

Screen shot from retrieved 11.12.13

Screen shot from retrieved 11.12.13

Against a sanguine backdrop a skinless man stands tall. This is quite a feat considering he has been bisected down the center of his body, a foot for each side to stand on. Through the gap between his separated sides, his organs have been neatly shuffled to the left or right, providing a jigsaw view of the human abdominal cavity. Despite his exposure, the man is confident: he’s got one fist against each hip, as if inviting the viewer to peruse his innards. And why shouldn’t he be confident? He’s been gifted with a new lease on life. His fat has been melted away, his fluids replaced by silicon. As a display in Bodies: The Exhibition, he will never rot, ignominiously, in the ground; instead, medical students, children and the curious can pay Premier Exhibitions for the privilege of staring into unseeing eyes. But whose? The process this nameless, skinless man has gone through is called “plastination,” an invention of German doctor Gunther von Hagens, who founded the Body Worlds exhibition, which features preserved human and animal corpses (“Plastination”). In 2011, the then 66-year-old anatomist announced that he was dying. He requested that his body be plastinated after death and put on display.


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