Death and nudity are among many of the taboo subjects that are touched upon at Body Worlds, a traveling exhibition currently in Salt Lake City.
Viewers of Body Worlds may be surprised to see skinless bodies displayed in a variety of cuts — dead babies and fetuses, and breasts and genitals in broad view. Body Worlds professes to be educational, to give the public an opportunity to see the beauty and intricacy of the human body. But is stripping down the human body to this extent necessary?
“The human body is the last remaining nature in a man made environment,” Gunther von Hagens, creator of Body Worlds, is quoted from the Body Worlds Web site. “I hope for the exhibitions to be places of enlightenment and contemplation, even of philosophical and religious self recognition, and open to interpretation regardless of the background and philosophy of life of the viewer.”
Without a doubt, this exhibition is not for everyone. Death is not easy to address; and in this exhibition, it is displayed for all — who are willing to pay more than $20 — to see.
This exhibition should be viewed with solemnity. Any breasts or genitals that are present in the exhibition are not meant to be pornographic in any way, and the kind of people who would be aroused are more disturbing than the bodies on display. These bodies were once living people who allegedly donated their bodies, and had the knowledge of where they were going.
As for the topic of death and the issue of whether or not it is ethical to use these bodies for entertainment and profit, as well as for education, that is subjective.
“The anatomist alone is assigned a specific role — he is forced in his daily work to reject the taboos and convictions that people have about death and the dead,” said Von Hagens. “I myself am not controversial, but my exhibitions are, because I am asking viewers to transcend their fundamental beliefs and convictions about our joint and inescapable fate.”
Intrigue seems to be the main response from most people who view the exhibit. That intrigue may be doing more to educate people about their own bodies than anything else. If Body Worlds is likely to be offensive to you, don’t go. Leave it to those who are willing to have a new sense of intrigue and discovery instilled within them. Make sure to leave any taboos at the door.