The Universe Within, an exhibit of plastinated human bodies in various dissected states, was on display in San Francisco from May to September 2005.
The exhibit has had its share of controversy with questions about the state of the bodies on display and questions pertaining to how the bodies were obtained or whether they were from willful donors. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see what the fuss was about I made my way to the exhibit to get a closer look and learn more about the background of the event.
The exhibit was smaller than I thought it might be yet was quite thorough with respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous system, reproductive, appendage, musculoskeletal and whole body displays. At the heart of the exhibit, no pun intended, was the plastination process that made everything possible. Plastination as it was explained allows for the preservation of human anatomy for easy handling, nullification of odor and improving the working environment of students & researchers.
The exhibits were quite impressive. The musculoskeletal displays were
quite note worthy, but nothing came close to the amazing circulatory
& respiratory displays. The preservation of the entire circulatory
system less any other tissue around it was amazing.
One element of the exhibit that I found disturbing was the posing
of the bodies in everyday positions such as reading the paper and
riding a bike. The pose that I found the most disturbing was the individual
holding his own skin on a hanger as though it were a suit. Seeing
the human body in everyday poses provided a great opportunity to see
the human body in an otherwise impossible way, but it also humanized
the subjects a little too much for my taste. I suppose I went in expecting
an anatomical lesson by looking at sterile and bland looking subjects.
Looking at a dissected body and making eye contact much the way I
would with someone in everyday life threw me for a loop in a way I
wasn't expecting. Would this dissuade me from seeing the equivalent
exhibit "Body Works" or recommend this exhibit to others?
No. If you have the opportunity to see either exhibits and can tolerate
the graphic nature of each then it is definitely worth the price of
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