I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bodies = Trauma.




Tonight, Lauren and I went and had some totally mediocre (read: bad) Mexican food on Sunset. Then, Lauren and I went to see Bodies.

It's an exhibit of plastinated and flayed corpses that teaches us about anatomy. I think there's been some outcry because it was put together out of Chinese Prisoners and Mental Institution patients. Who cares. They're dead.

I walked away from the exhibit with an absolute awe of all off the interconnected systems and structures that form the human body.

It is absolutely amazing.

It was also the most awful two hours of my life.

I'm what we call "squeamish."

Lauren got a real kick out of watching me gasp and swoon at everything. I was. a. fucking. pussy.

But it's sort of gross, and whenever I see bones and muscles and nerves and structures, and flayed testicles, flayed babies, and babies with spina bifidas and external organs, it makes me REALLY squeamish, and every bone, muscle and structure in my body hurts.

I learned what penises are made out of, I saw ovaries, hell, I learned what EVERYTHING is made out of. It was an absoloutely amazing exhibit. They took people apart forwards, backwards, right and left.

There was even a guy holding hands with his own full skeleton. Yeah. Freaky shit.

But, the entire time, I was on the verge of totally passing out. From horror.

And then the worst thing that could have happened, happened.

LAUREN TOUCHED ONE OF THE BODIES.

AND THEN SHE TOUCHED MY ARM.

I freaked out, and made her wash her hands before we left. And I washed my arm.

And I told her that she's unclean and now has to take a mikvah.

8 Comments:

Blogger Rootietoot said...

My father taught anatomy for 30 years. Plastinated body parts (albeit animal) were a part of my childhood toy box. While I totally understand many people's fascination with this exhibit, it would be like going to "the illustrated history of pots and pans" for me. Parts is parts, in my mind. I suppose the creators of this exhibit believe themselves to be treating the bodies with dignity and all, but...I don't know. A big part of me disapproves (doesn't it always), because those bodies that formerly housed a soul are put out there to pander to a sense of voyeurism. Granted, there are those parents of kids named Whitfield IV who take li'l Whit so as to Educate and Edify him/her (who can tell), but we all know the kid's going "EWW!COOL!GUTS!" and NOT thinking "my goodness will you look at the complexities of sacro-iliac joint, I bet that person had arthritis, see the calcification?"
I don't have problems with flayed animal parts all over, as I said, I grew up with it. But humans, I don't know. I disapprove. *sniff*

5:45 AM

 
Blogger SuperBee said...

But once the Soul is gone, isn't the body just an empty shell?

Part of it does definitely pander to a sense of voyeurism, but the exhibit does a really great job of showing healthy bodies, and then showing diseased body parts, like a brain with a stroke, breast cancer, fibrous tumors, colon polyps, clogged arteries, smokers' lungs, bone cancer, and a myriad of other awful ailments.

And after a while, you begin to be able to tell in the standing bodies whether they had problems (although the most obvious thing to detect were the smokers).

On one hand it is a gruesome sideshow, on the other hand, I do think it's a valid exhibit showcasing many of the amazing systems that the human body has, and emphasizing how each of these ridiculous systems works in harmony with the other ones.

Because don't forget - while you had plastinated parts (PUUUUKE - that is so absolutely disgusting to me, it makes me want to die.) many of us won't ever have the opportunity to sit in on a live dissection (or have the stomach to sit through one) and most of us don't have access to anatomical books and classes. While we get an okay sense of what's going on in the Human body through what we've seen in the Smithsonian, or the Walter Reed Museum of Pathology (which is closing, unfortunately), this is an exhibit that really ties it all together quite nicely.

As usual, there's debate. I don't really see the difference between exhibiting these bodies to the general public, and donating them to medical schools for dissection by 22-year-old medical students. The objective is educational in both instances, and the exhibit is well marked and full of easy-to-read but in-depth explanations of the way the systems work. Really, it comes down to what the viewer chooses to make out of it. A medical student could say "ewww! look at the poop chute!" just the way that Lauren and I did. Still, I definitely came out of the exhibit having learned a GREAT DEAL.

Even though it made me want to puke on my balls, it was, overall, a really amazing exhibit.

6:41 AM

 
Blogger Rootietoot said...

The difference, in my mind, between public exhibition and anatomy lab dissection is it's purpose. One doesn't take human anatomy for the hell of it, one takes it because one's training to be a physician. Public exhibition...I don't know. I can't really put my finger on the discomfort I have with it other than to say it seems like a sort of violation.

On the other hand, yes, a corpse is just a shell, and I really don't care what happens to my body once I take leave of it. I also realize that my upbringing is unusual, that most people dont have horse lungs in their living room and chicken lips in their freezer.

Education is always a good thing, in my mind, and I guess if people come away from the exhibit having learned something amazing, then it's a good thing. And this medium for teaching probably strikes a chord with people that a plastic model never would. But I am still uncomfortable with the possibility of disrespect- we don't have the person's soul to look at, just his/her parts that made up what was perceived by others as "You".
Like, maybe there should be a "pre-viewing mikveh" or a basin of holy water or something. To make sure those people's bodies are honored and respected.

9:09 AM

 
Blogger SuperBee said...

I understand the "respect the dead" argument - in a way. And I understand how this exhibit can make people uncomfortable. It certainly freaked my shit out, both because I was around corpses (I don't like death) and because of the "real-life" ness about everything.

It was crazy to think that once these were people. But something about the plastination process took away that "human-ness." There was no more "lifeblood" in them - essentially it was a heap of organic matter, no different than a mummy exhibited in a Musuem.

These people were all Chinese. Somehow, I doubt that "Holy water" would necessarily be appropriate. ;) And I only told Lauren she needed to take a Mikvah because she touched a dead person and was therefore, ritually unclean.

I, however, took a long, hot bath afterwards to wash off any hint of death that clung to me.

12:00 PM

 
Blogger Rootietoot said...

My comment about holy water was a grasp at the desire for something, some ritual, that would impress upon the living the gravity of what they were about to see. Since mikveh is a washing, as is holy water, and baptism, that was my attempt at making a point. It could very well be a brushing over by oak branches, or a dribble of sand on the feet.You know what I mean. It really makes no difference the origin of the bodies, what matters is the way they are approached by the living.

Yeah, plastination is a process that makes the tissue feel less "living" (wow, that's poorly worded). It feels like rubber, and acts like it too. My brother and I once...well..never mind.

12:29 PM

 
Anonymous Abbs said...

Jeremy, darling...I love you and couldn't agree more that the whole thought of the exhibit is GROSS..that's why, my darling...I WOULDN'T GO TO THE FRIGGIN THING!!! When you think something might disgust you, stay away from it! (I wish I had lived by that premise in college). As a general rule, I find that exposed muscular tissue = gross. Just a thought.

12:36 PM

 
Anonymous vidas said...

Where did you have dinner? Was it at Poblano's?

3:40 PM

 
Blogger SuperBee said...

Ugh. Yes. Terrible.

3:56 PM

 

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