Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The body breaks

I am instructed to view that skinless web of veins and tendons not merely as a human face, nor even as that dead man's face, but rather as my face.

But it is not my face. In life, the organs of this man's face were his primary point of interaction with the rest of the world, that from which he evaluated his surroundings and went beyond the now desiccated body to make his thoughts and desires known to others. His mouth has been reduced to a static bit of muscle and bone, but we can imagine it moving through space, chewing the food that he enjoyed, whispering to a lover.

The widespread acceptance of Body Worlds is either violently a-religious -- at once a stark humanist proclamation of our own wonders and a rejection of extra-individual considerations in the treatment of our selves in death -- or oddly indicative of a religious sensibility: an acceptance that whatever, whomever, it was that possessed that jaw, has given it up, leaving us free to use it. This is something that Gunther von Hagens, the doctor behind the exhibit, gestures toward in his writings, suggesting that locating dignity within the soul rather than the body "is certainly an alternative for those who believe in the existence of the soul." Since a vast majority of Americans say they do believe in the soul, the perception of the body as an empty husk would seem to be at work in the public acceptance of Body Worlds.

-- Sean Perry, writing about the von Hagens exhibit of preserved corpses now in Chicago for Sightings


Blogger J said...

From Jo's friend Graham:

Plastination seems all the rage -- there's a big exhibition on in SF:

2:42 PM  

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