Body Worlds!

I went to "Body Worlds 3: The Story of the Heart" tonight and I LOVED IT!!! It was fascinating.

According to trusty Wikipedia, Body Worlds is "is a traveling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts that are prepared using a technique called plastination to reveal inner anatomical structures. " These cadavers are presented in a very artistic manner, yet with lots of scientific background and base. It started like my artistic anatomy class did: bones first, then muscles. This exhibit went far beyond, into the more physiological and medical side of things, all in a very appropriate manner.

Here's 9 of my favorite things.

1. I had to sign in as an "artist". I felt pretty special as I had to sign a release form a and wear a little sticker that labeled me "sketcher". Honestly, though, I wrote more than I sketched. Upon entering, everyone received little sketchbooks/notepads to write our thoughts in. As it was at The Leonardo in SLC, the front of the books states, "Leonardo Da Vinci explored the fascinating intersection of science and art. In this spirit, we invite you to use this notebook to record questions and impressions as you discover Gunther Von Hagens' Body Worlds." If you know me well, you know that I love mini-things. This definitely qualified.

2. I loved that everything I'd learned in Niki's class was applied, at least as far an bones and muscles go, as I studied the exhibit. My friend who took me, Craig, had some anatomy experience, but let me explain to him things that I observed in the exhibit from the knowledge I've gained through my artistic anatomy class. It was fun to see what I knew and what I needed to research more.

3. It was far more educational than I thought it'd be. I guess I assumed it would be, but the exhibit went into so much more depth than I thought it would. There were lots of signs about these different bodies and body parts that were helpful. For a bit more money, we were also supplied with little electronic guides, so if we were curious about a certain part of the exhibit, we could type in the accompanying number on the little key pad of this walkie-talkie looking thing and would be able to hear a detailed audio track about what we were seeing.

4. The "pregnancy" part of the exhibit blew my mind. It showed the embryo from the middle of the 5th week all the way til the 31-33rd week. Something that just looked like a bit of dust you'd find under your bed can be transformed into a living, breathing and fully functional human being. It was hard for me to fathom. No wonder procreation is such a sacred and supremely important thing in this life. I was reverenced and awed by it.

5. I thought it was way cool that as the lungs were exhibited, they included a set of lungs that were a very dark coal-color. The lungs of a smoker. Instead of just showing this, they also had a box for smokers to put their cigarette boxes in, with a mantra having to do with quitting now. They also had a video going, of Yul Brenner pleading for people not to smoke (his last testimonial before he died). There were also little cards provided with "my testimonial" on the front and on the back spaces for information if someone wanted to call and ask why you quit. I thought this call to action was cool.

6. The full bodies were all arranged in very creative and interesting, yet very educational ways. This was so innovative. Each position had a specific purpose. One cadaver was displayed in 3 sections to show the compact quality of the inner workings of the body. One of my favorites was doing the splits with his feet resting on two balls, supporting himself with a hand on the 3rd, while the other hand was holding all of his internal organs up in the air. The superficial muscles of his back were cut away and facing upwards, so that you could visualize how everything fit together, but still have everything in tact there for you to see. (i couldn't find an image of this online, but he's the very last one displayed in the video in this link. check it out)

7. In the exhibit, they showed not only the healthy parts, but what they look like with different diseases, injuries, etc. Some parts of the body were shown healthy compared to unhealthy. For example, they had a cross-section of a brain, then one with a tumor. Another displayed an entire woman with various injuries, and provided metal joints and attachments to compensate for what the body was lacking. It explained why these different conditions occur, and how to prevent them if possible. This is, by the way, the *picture on the right, although you can only really see her metal knee in this shot, and part of her broken jaw.

8. Throughout the entire exhibit, they encouraged us to take care of and respect our bodies. Not only did they expound on purely scientific information, they related it to our normal lives and had cool quotes on the walls about life in general. They included interesting facts, and among them were these: simply being optimistic (as opposed to pessimistic) greatly reduces probability of heart disease, you really can die of a broken heart (because of a "toxic overload of stress hormones resulting in stress cardiomyopathy-- same symptoms as a heart attack) , the reasoning behind goose bumps and numbness, the tiny electrical signals from the nerve cells can travel up to 250 mph (!!!), your heart pumps 1800 gallons of blood daily (they had one red-tinted room empty except for 33 huge oil barrels and a huge heartbeat playing on speakers with this information as a visual reminder. Kind of eerie but way cool).

9. At the end, there were a lot of interactive stations: one provided little tiles you could write on, answering the question of the week (this week's was "Can you judge somebody by their physical appearance?"). Then you could add your tile to the great wall of tiles with everyone else's answers. Another station had a camera set up, and you could record your story and watch the stories of previous visitors. Another had a bunch of listening stations, where you could listen to certain experiences of different people. Because we'd been there so long, I didn't make Craig wait while I explored all of these things. But they were awesome!
As an artist, I loved viewing the body as a visual reality.
As one fascinated by and interested in the sciences, I enjoyed learning more about the functions therein and how they relate.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this testified to me even more how real God is and showed me that the human body was no "accident".
As a human being, I learned to respect and appreciate my body so much more.

And I'd go again in, well, a heartbeat.

(By the way, at The Leonardo, this closes on January 11, so hurry and go buy tickets! It's so worth it.)

*Also, note that photography wasn't allowed in the exhibit (sadly, but i understand why) so i didn't take any photos. the photos of the bodies are all from the internet.


Laura said...

YEAH! Rock on.
I'll just...ditto.

I took a full two hours more than my family to try and absorb it all, but still feel like I missed a ton. I loved...ack. EVERYTHING!
Let's gush sometime.
Possibly while sketching.
Assuming that will happen one of these days.

Anyway, excellent documentation and analysis. As a human being, member of the Church and fellow artist - I salute you.

--jeff * said...

i've been curious about the exhibit, and your post just sold me 100% on it.

Stupendousman35 said...

WHY DID I NOT GO!? doh...
Man....oh well. Those were some pretty cool explanations of what you saw though. oh man...reading it was making me think that I should have gone!