Welcome to this travel blog which is inspired by the wandering clouds effortlessly gliding through distant lands. Sometimes almost still as if watching the beauty of the earth below and at times rushing to some place far away – as if on an endless travel mission. This is where I share my observations, experiences and thoughts gathered during my travels

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Body Worlds

No, this is not the name of my gym. But I must confess that the thought of writing about Body Worlds did occur to me last week when my gym instructor was explaining me about the science of body building. He told me that one of the challenges that body builders work themselves towards is to develop a perfectly chiseled body where one is able to show every single muscle to the viewers. This requires taking off every ounce of fat that covers the muscles. In other words, a well sculpted body is where one must be able to see clearly from the outside what actually lies inside! That is when I remembered the Body Worlds exhibition I had seen a few years ago in the US. It is the one of most fascinating exhibitions I have ever seen. It shows exactly how our human bodies look from the inside, without the ugly fat or the beautiful skin covering it. And the best part is that it showcases our insides with the help of real human bodies and not artificially built specimens that are used in laboratories or med schools.

Body Worlds is a traveling exhibition and has been displayed in many parts of the world. It has not come to India so far and I wish it comes here some day. Developed by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the exhibition showcases real human bodies that have been preserved through a process of plastination. This process involves preserving the human body/ its organs and tissues by removing the water and fat content and replacing it with polymer so as to avoid it from getting decomposed. The use of polymers also offers the flexibility to give the desired shape and posture to the human body specimen. According to their official website, it takes over 1500 working hours or a whole year to prepare one body specimen or plastinate, as it is called. The bodies are those willed by various individuals for this cause and they have a long list of those who have offered to get themselves plastinated after death. To read more about this and see some of the pictures of the plastinates, see http://www.bodyworlds.com/en.html

The exhibition showcased how the insides of the body work, the muscular system, the skeletal system, interiors of key internal organs, how various systems are structured inside the body, how bodies look from the inside when a person is healthy, diseased or has had an implant and also during various stages of life. I remember seeing an exhibit of a pregnant woman with a baby in the womb. There was another one of a smoker with distinctly darkened lungs, a shriveled liver due to cirrhosis, and the weak heart of a heart patient. There was a majestic plastinate of a horse and a man riding atop. The muscles of the horse and that of the man were absolutely stunning. Some of the plastinates were shown engaged in various activities – playing chess, fencing, skateboarding, gymnastics, acrobatics, running, dancing and singing. This was absolutely artistic and one could imagine how real life persons must be looking from the inside when doing these complicated mental and physical activities.

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures or touch the specimens for obvious reasons. It took me almost four hours to see the entire exhibition.  One always has the option of going back and seeing something one finds particularly interesting and many specimens have benches provided in front for visitors to sit and observe. I was told that the exhibition is always crowded so there is no point trying to find a slot when it would be relatively less crowded.

I remember distinctly that my first reaction on seeing the plastinates was that of awe and disbelief and as I left the exhibition, I was feeling humbled and somewhat philosophical. My daughter who was about eight years at that time was quite cool and unperturbed and I remember some concerned parents asking me when I came out if it would be appropriate for children. But I must say that some visitors (especially adults) were evidently uncomfortable and were not able to stand the not-so-pleasing sights of the human interiors. So if think you fall in that category, you are better off watching a body building competition instead. If not, don’t miss this exhibition if you happen to be in the same city.

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