June 05, 2005

This is just plain creepy

Here's a link to an article in Salon (site pass required) to what is one of the most morbid sounding displays I've ever heard off. Imagine an art gallery where people's bodies (which could in fact be people who haven't given their consent, say, like, executed chinese prisoners whose organs may have been illegally harvested by their government?) are posed on things like bicycles with their skin peeled away and various organs displayed.

Personally, I feel you can call anything art, but just because someone takes a crap on a cinder block and call it art doesn't really mean it is.


Noumena said...

Well, setting aside the issue of where the bodies came from (and I'll admit that is some cause for concern), I think these exhibits sound absolutely fascinating. The author of the Salon article compares them to sensationalist sideshow displays, but I'm thinking more of the illustrations in Grey's Anatomy and surgery programs on the Discovery Channel. To those of us who aren't particularly interested in anatomy, these works lead us to think about ourselves as mortal, physical bodies -- a perspective Western civilization has often avoided emphasizing. And what else is good art supposed to do but lead us to consider the usual in unusual ways?

DrDeef said...

I saw Body Worlds 2 in LA this on Spring Break this year, and let me tell you, it is fascinating. I almost don't even care where the bodies came from (although anything from China is suspect) because of what it can do for the education of the general public. The displays are not, as they are often described, circus-like or grotesque. The bodies are presented in amazingly graceful ways that allow you to see the anatomy in its physiologic state, in mid-action. I can think of no better way to allow people into the hidden wonder of the human body without it being boring or condescending. When you see the exhibit there is very little focus on the "artist" who plastinates the bodies - these bodies have not been appropriated to be his canvases. Instead, the focus is on discovery of the self. The public knows very little about their most useful and amazing tool and this traveling exhibit allows those who are brave to take a peak inside and learn. I had already seen all of the anatomy before, but seeing the bodies in their "natural state" of action put life back into the tissue and made the bodies real. I highly recommend seeing these shows if you can. Don't let your sensibilities overrule your curiosity about science - this is an opportunity few get to witness.

Archgarth said...

I admit, I am interested in the show, if I could get over the grotesque nature of it. Personally, I have trouble seeing it as anything more than a circus sideshow, as sozialismus mentions, instead of as a clinical study.

What unnerves me is the ethical problem of whether or not we are "respecting" the dead here. It's not a case of scientific study, or of remains that have been preserved so you can hold them and see them, but we are taking the bodies of dead people and posing/cutting/peeling them in such a way as to provoke a reaction in people.

If these people who were on display volunteered to have this done to their bodies after their death, I would not have a big problem with it. But the article certainly begs the question as to where these bodies came from.

After all, how would you feel if somebody took one of your dead relatives, plasticised them, sawed them in half, and posed them to look like the two halves were shaking hands with themselves?

MosBen said...

I was going to say that a corpse is just that, but there *are* some things I would consider inappropriate, so I'll concede that. Still, this isn't like they're playing with the bodies, there's a purpose, and a useful one there, and I think that differentiates it.

"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." - Yoda