Friday night, another Cavern Denizen and I went to Science World to see the controversial exhibit, Body Worlds 3. We didn’t make it down there in time to play with all the toys that get locked up at six o’clock, unfortunately. We were in for an evening show.
And what a show!
Groups are allowed entry on a timed schedule, about fifteen minutes apart. But each person goes through the exhibit at his own pace...some faster than others. It took me about two hours to get through it, and I feel like I might have rushed it a bit. I’d like to go back and see it again.
There are audio units you can rent for a nominal fee if you want to hear about each display rather than read the cards. Next time, I’ll get the audio units. They look like phone receivers, and they play the display message when you dial in the display number on the keypad. Not exactly the same as Disney’s audioanimatronics setup, but not far from it.
There are two types of displays – whole body and special focus. The special focus ones concentrate on specific areas of the body, such as the hands and arms, the brain and head, or the internal organs. These displays are laid out on tables and enclosed in glass cases, and you find those toward the center of the rooms.
The whole body displays are towards the outer edges of the rooms, and they are virtually complete skeletons that are posed to show the musculature, skeleton, tendons, attachments, central nervous system, and sometimes the organs, as they would appear during athletic activity. I can’t remember all of them, but there was a ballet dancer -- a male, en pointe (unfortunately, yes, it was a male rather than a female; but Doctor von Hagen is an anatomist, not a ballet aficionado, or he would have known that men do not dance en pointe). You will see a photograph of the dancer if you click on the link in the first paragraph. There was a skateboarder. An archer (female – I promptly named her Artemis). A javelin thrower. One fellow holding up for display the largest organ of the human body...his skin. A cyclist. Gymnasts.
I didn’t actually count how many whole-body skeletons there were in the exhibit, but there were quite a few of them. Male and female, adult and child, embryo and fetus – not much was left out.
I already knew quite a bit about the human body, but I still managed to learn a few things. The liver is not an organ, it is a gland. Everything is smaller than I thought it was. Except the pancreas – that was bigger than I thought it was. And there can’t possibly be enough room in the torso for all that length of intestines!
Who was there? Ah, well...everyone in the world seemed to be crowded into those rooms, and quite a sampling from just about everywhere. Tourists, of course. But of the locals, a fair number of them seemed to be medical students, comparing notes with one another. Teenagers in couples and groups who may have started out looking for a giggle and changed their attitudes on their way through. Parents and grandparents with young children. A few singles. Y’know...people. From all over the place.
There was one mother there with her son and daughter who looked to be around nine or ten years old. I met up with them around the table that showed the reproductive organs, and the mother was pointing out the differences between the male and the female. The kids were paying serious attention. Nine or ten years old. Amazing.
The whole exhibit is not just an educational, scientific display. It is also an artistic display, whose medium is the human bodies that were specifically assigned to Doctor von Hagen and his work by their former inhabitants. I was impressed with the detail and care taken with each item on display. I was also impressed and gratified by the obvious honor and respect with which the work was presented.
Science World has some permission forms available for anyone who would like to volunteer his body to be used in future exhibits. I heard a fair number of people asking for them.
All in all, this is not something you can understand by reading what I write about it. You have to see it for yourself to fully appreciate it. I can tell you there was a ballet dancer, but you can’t see what I saw when you read that; and I can’t begin to describe it well enough with only words for tools. This is something you absolutely must experience for yourself.
And someday, I hope you do. I can guarantee that you’ll never be sorry.
There is a video here of the show from Chicago. Some of the displays are the same as the one in Vancouver right now, and some are different. But you will get a better understanding of the entire exhibit from the video than mere words can convey...
There has been a huge kafuffle over the Body Worlds 3 exhibit at Science World in Vancouver. If you live in the Vancouver area, you know where Science World is -- it's that big golf ball that looks like it was made of millions of rolls of tinfoil and then got driven off the tee and right into the water trap at False Creek. Otherwise known as Main Street Station on the Skytrain.
Anyway, Dr. Gunther von Hagens has brought his show to town. And what a show it has been so far! If the polarization of public opinion was ever one of his targets, he's already a huge success!
I keep wanting to step in and say, "People...this is a science exhibit. It could be educational. It might even be interesting. Before you go off half-cocked and lynch the presenter, why don't you at least go see it first?"
Several high schools had been planning day trips to the exhibit. Some squeamish adults complained, and most of the schools have cancelled their day trips. Note that it wasn't the students who complained, but adults. The students can't wait to get in there.
I see letter to the editors of the local papers all the time asking why "we" (whoever "we" are) want to damage the sensitive psyches of our children with such gruesome details of dead corpses! I tell ya -- it's not the kids who are being creeped out by this; it's the adults. The kids freakin' love it!
There was even one guy who wrote a letter supposing that the bodies being exhibited are all former Falun Gong practitioners, and we should all stay away from the exhibit or we'll be supporting the Communist Chinese government in its genocidal efforts to wipe out Falun Gong.
Somebody else protested by saying, "What if it was one of your relatives that people are staring at?" Truthfully? Mom woulda been tickled pink. She always did love a party. And she left her body to science, so it's entirely possible that she's there already.
We are a society bent on making choices on behalf of everyone else. I decided a long time ago not to allow other to make choices for me. I'm going to the show this weekend.
I've been busy. I've also been out of town for a bit. But I'm back now, and as soon as I catch my breath and get through all the laundry and unpacking and "where did this come from?" and "oops, who does this belong to?", I'll be back posting.
North Korea has been naughty, I hear. Must catch up on things...
If you have the urge to put a political label on me, I urge you to resist that urge. There is no political label in the world that can be made to fit me.
When I'm in a good mood, I'm a badger. When I'm in a bad mood, I'm a wolverine. Your call...