Last week, I finally got to see one of the Body Worlds exhibits at Science World here in Vancouver. I can't post a photograph - the business that runs these exhibits all over the world is very careful with them - and now that I've seen it, I understand why.
First, let me tell you that this is not an exhibit for the squeamish. But it is absolutely amazing. And if you're not squeamish, I think you'll find it beautiful. I did. And you'll learn a whole lot - things you wouldn't even have thought about learning.
If you don't know what Body Worlds is, here are the Coles Notes. A German doctor invented a way - I think it's called plastination - to preserve human bodies so they can be exhibited. Some bodies are shown whole, with specific parts exposed - say muscles, or internal organs, or whatever. Some bodies are used to show only very specific parts - such as lungs or hearts or the nervous system.
I understand that some people might be offended or uncomfortable about this use of human bodies, but for me, I felt as if I were seeing an homage to the humanity of us all.
In many cases, the poses they're in - to exhibit a specific part of a body, or a particular system within it - are exquisite. Bodies in sports poses (baseball, soccer, figure skating), in yoga poses, in ballet poses. There is the X-Lady - who is, to me, so beautiful I see her as a piece of art. Her inner organs are exposed, her lovely lean muscles, her skull - all these things that are inside of us are beautiful.
Or the Drawer Man - where different body parts are opened as drawers so we can see what happens underneath the skin. Or the nervous system - the nerves spread out from the brain showing how everything is tied together. One of the things that blew me away was the various exhibits of the blood vessels. Wow! Not just thinking about how they worked in my body, but the care and skill and time it must have taken to create these things.
On a purely aesthetic level - this exhibit was art. It was sensitive and creative and wonderful - in all senses of that word.
I think very few people would come out of this exhibit without having gained knowledge of how things work inside our bodies, without having experienced awe and joy and sorrow, without saying thank you to the man who brought this to us, allowing us to see so much which has been hidden from us.