Letters

Plastinated body parts "very moving"? Salon readers weigh in on Jon Mooallem's "I See Dead People."


Salon Staff
June 9, 2005 12:00AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

"It's amazing that a giant room full of controversial cadavers slipped under the radar of our culture of life for so long."

Is this a confession of Salon's editorial department, that there is no story in the world worth reporting until it touches down within the bounds of San Francisco? For months, "Body Worlds" was the talk of the town in Los Angeles and Chicago; for years, the talk of Germany. I can't imagine how Salon can in good conscience run a publicity shot from "Body Worlds," but base the entire story around a cheap knockoff show with the distinction of having landed a short walk from your offices. Folks, either change the photo or spring for airfare to see the authentic article.

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As for the "Body Worlds" show, perhaps its record-breaking popularity in L.A. can be linked to the surge in popularity of yoga. Americans have a pent-up demand to learn what they are made of.

Visitors to the show have had cortisone injections, back surgeries, endless prescription refills and restricted diets, but they can't get a good answer to what is causing the pain. Looking around the audience in L.A., I saw people staring at the displays, but touching themselves -- trying to match what they saw to what they felt and even at times explaining to their children why they had to go see the doctor. It was a very moving experience.

-- Todd Markle

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I left the "Body Worlds" exhibit in Chicago feeling slightly disgusted with myself for having paid to enter. I don't object to the showing of plastinated body parts per se, but the positions in which the bodies were arranged struck me as vulgar, morbid and sideshowish.

I think von Hagens knows this, which is why he put dozens of educational samples of the heart, lung, blood vessel and other body parts before his more impressive and disgusting whole-body specimens.

-- Maxwell Dubler

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For me the main problem with "The Universe Within" is that it didn't teach me anything new about the human body. The whole exhibit seemed more like a carnival sideshow than an educational experience. The fact that the exhibit did not appear in any standard museum should have been the No. 1 tipoff that something fishy was going on.

When I returned home I opened up my book about the Museo La Specola in Florence, Italy, which is a collection of life-size wax anatomical models that are more instructive and artistic than the bodies at "Universe Within," and have the added benefit of not being made of real human flesh. (I highly recommend you look this up. It is in a book by Taschen called "Encyclopaedia Anatomica.") Once you see what they were doing in Italy during the 1800s, you realize what a total scam these plastination things are.

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-- Aran Johnson

I hate the corpse you decided to put at the top of the front page this weekend. It is extremely grotesque. Salon is my start-up page, and every time I have opened Internet Explorer this weekend I see a flayed corpse. Gahhh!

Please, never, ever, ever, ever put a corpse at the top of the front page again.

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-- Paul N. Henry


Salon Staff

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