Saturday, September 09, 2006

I saw dead people

I went to the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the MoS last night. I'd heard different things about the exhibit--gross, cool, thought-provoking, controversial, sad, rad--so I was eager to check it out for myself. And here's what I thought: It was one of the neatest things I've ever seen.

Yeah, the idea's kinda sick: This German doctor guy gets the idea to plastinate real human cadavers and put them on display...grody, right? Except then I realized that each body was donated for exactly that purpose with an informed consent that can be revoked at any time prior to death. And then I realized that the people who donated their bodies had the goal of being useful, even in death. I can't help but think that's a pretty admirable goal.

[Side note: There's a really neat article in this month's Bust Magazine about a woman who's decided to donate her body to the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility, aka The Body Farm. Same basic idea--usefulness in death--but a different path.]

So when I went up to the exhibit hall, I was prepared for anything: feeling sick, feeling sad, feeling excited, whatever. But then when I walked in and actually saw the bodies, I was riveted. They were so complex and so beautiful, all the parts working together to create real human beings. The bones and the nerves and the muscles and the organs and all the rest--all the parts are there, right under the surface of our skin. I hadn't been able to imagine my own body before last night; my heart and my bones and my brain were just abstractions to me (I'm a visual learner, can you tell?). But now I feel connected to those parts in a way I never have, and I'm even more fascinated by our amazing human bodies.

I spent extra time last night examining the heels and feet of the bodies, looking at the plantar fascia that've been giving me such problems lately. My doctor told me about foot anatomy during my recent checkup, and when I saw the cadavers' feet I could see exactly what she meant. I could understand just where my pain's been coming from, and I could see how the tendons fit together with the fascia to give me hell in the mornings. It was really neat to understand my own body in a new way.

As amazing as that was, even more awe-inspiring was the section on fetal development. A pregnant woman with terminal illness had donated her body to the exhibit, and her entire body had been plastinated, including her intact uterus and the fetus she was carrying. It was so beautiful, so absolutely incredible, to see that baby nesting inside her uterus. The woman was 5 months pregnant when she died and she was showing quite a bit, and it was magical to see how her fetus fit so perfectly inside her. For the first time, I could really imagine pregnancy, could see exactly how a baby moves inside its mother. How she has to pee a lot because the baby really is sitting on top of her bladder, and how her organs make way for her growing uterus and fetus. How conception and birth is a miracle, how our female bodies are resilient and strong. How we nest in our mothers like Matroyshka dolls, ova within ova within ova, world without end. It seemed that I was alone in this view of the fetal development exhibit, though. Some people got all loud and anti-choice, and other people cried. One man said, "I'm going to have nightmares about this tonight."

Not me, though. I'm glad I went.


Anonymous Jenny PP said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it but I don't know if I would. Not because of craziness like people yelling anti-choice stuff which is upsetting, but just overall I might find it kind of too gross.

Anyway, thanks for your post about it! :) And I'm glad you had a good time.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Clementine said...

Yeah, I understand that some folks wouldn't like it. The very things I appreciated made some people sick, that's for sure. For me, the best part about the exhibit is that there's no plexiglass barrier between you and some of the dead people, so you can put your eyeballs 2 inches from someone's plantar fascia if you want. It was fascinating to me, but I can see why it might be too gross for you.

Seriously, the anti-choice stuff upset me most. And stupid people being know-it-alls, but effing it up. (Example: One dude told his friend that a tendon was a fallopian tube. I wanted to school him, but it wasn't worth the effort.) Also upsetting: In the midst of all the human bodies, there was a ginormous camel cadaver and a baby camel cadaver. I was like, "Whaaa?" Also, the adult camel was FUCKING HUGE. The whole camel thing was not a choice.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Jenny PP said...

I love the tendon fallopian tube. That's priceless. Also the camel thing is very weird.

11:16 PM  

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