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excerpted from, Bodyworlds at the Ontario Science Centre

First published in Torontoist

Now, it is possible to pretend that a civilization rooted in reasonable gods—gods who lead by the numbers—can remain free of superstitious notions. Bodyworks purports this. To show the spent vessels of what's past-living, as objects of curiosity, thinly veiled by educational aims, here is a thing presented as purely mechanical and synthetic—and can leave a gross impression, whether the bodies are ultimately fated to decompose, or not. And while bones may continue to keep hold of a tenacious stigma in our dominant culture—generally considered better buried than mounted—the vaguely mad science-engineer von Hagens, whose behind the Bodyworlds project, evidently doesn’t subscribe to that particular taboo. What can be seen here is that an entire human corpse is fair game, where it comes to its preservation—but additionally their vivisection, amputation, and variety of wild manipulations that involve a body's individual parts. (There is also an additional matter in that he's currently facing charges in Europe for illegally smuggling his plasticized cadavers across continental borders.)


I can agree that it’s hard to negotiate between un-pliable administrators and perturbed clerics—even more so when it comes time to talk about how expensive or appropriate it is to die—and judging by the crowd in attendance at the exhibition, a large enough swath of our enlightened population can do without any particular reservation or qualm to interfere with paying for admission to the von Hagens' exhibit. But it's also surprisingly easy for anyone to ossify in the face of what’s now dead. And as easy as it is to level random accusations that call what is casual callous, or promote the view that acts of living become more bone-like the more we know and less we listen—it's still worth considering that it can't hurt to learn about the living body by way o options less brittle than once living flesh transformed into mannequins to be regarded as casual information—but here, the information is also conveniently colour-coded.

Banners festooned some of the room when I visited Bodyworlds—bold with quotes cherry-picked to inspire the crowd a reasonable, if technical wonder. “What a piece of work,” says Hamlet—who is also often droll—but he's not known for finding wandering ghosts amusing—even if he does tend to talk to any old head lying around.

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