BODY WORLDS is unlike any exhibition that has ever come before. It explores bodily performance at a depth never before possible on such a comprehensive scale. Thanks to the breakthrough process of plastination, more than 200 real human specimens are displayed to reveal an extraordinary new look inside the human body.
What I actually saw on Sunday afternoon:
Sagittal slices. Humans in cross-section. The bones clear strong outlines, the muscles faint, like they've been painted on with a dry brush. One woman had extreme constipation. The slice of her abdomen reveals a looming darkness, threatening the surrounding organs.
One of the specimens, completely skinned, his preserved epidermis draped over his arm like a winter coat on a surprise sunny day. "Skin lends individuality to our exterior; it imparts beauty and age," the accompanying text reads. I kneel down to tie my shoe and look to the side, surprised to see that the defleshed soles of the feet are callosed.
So many testes, dangling from thin veins, the penis empty and sad between them. A hipster couple, so well-dressed for a Sunday at the museum, holds hands as they stare down at the male reproductive system under glass.
A uterus, implanted with an IUD, the metal insert glinting in contrast with the pale beige flesh surrounding.
An overweight young woman, thick eyeliner hovering a millimeter above her eyelids, pointing at a myomas. "That's what I had." She takes a step to the side, pointing at an ovarian tumor. "My mom had one of those." She reads out loud from the card. "One out of three ovarian tumors turns malignant. Huh."
Two brothers, 6 and 8, running around, sporting identical blonde crew cuts. Each of them calling: "Mom, look at this!"
Placentas, round and plush and preserved. They look a bit like pasty fritattas, mottled with blue veins, and yet somehow they look soft, inviting, comfortable. A nice place to relax for nine months.
Large banners everywhere, bearing quotes from the Bible and philosophers like Descarts and Nietzsche. A little bit of perspective.
Death is neither good nor evil, for good and evil can only be something that actually exists. Seneca.
The "Winged Man" display, where the skin of the face has been split down the center and peeled back. The two flaps of his cheeks, on the inside, look like reliefs of piranhas, and he wears a white straw hat. There is no clue as to why he wears a white straw hat until I read the accompanying text, detailing the relationships of skin and muscle, with one additional note: A white hat narrows the gap between life and death.
A man cut in twain, cartiledge separated from the spine, lunging for a soccer ball with one hand and holding onto his inner organs with the other. I lean in close, to fully inspect the interplay of bone. There is absolutely no smell.
I wrap a hand around my wrist, feeling the thin bones move beneath the skin, and the gap feels narrow indeed.