Friday, December 08, 2006

Body Works 3 By: Lezah Williamson

at Science World, Vancouver until Jan. 14, 2006

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I went to see the highly controversial Body Works 3 at Science World on Monday. I say highly controversial because there has been quite the firestorm over this exhibit in the media and around various School Board meeting tables since the display opened. In fact, a number of local School Boards have (narrow-mindedly, in my opinion) banned this particular exhibit. And why is that? Well, it's because real human bodies are used; obviously some would have strong feelings over this.

Me? I'm not so fussy.

So I went. And I enjoyed it, so much so that I will be going again this weekend. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement.

I had heard about the exhibit before I went, and also did a bit of research. This show has already toured the globe extensively (hence the '3' at the end of the title), but with each tour, more and different displays are added, and advances are made in the science of plastination, the technique invented in 1977 by Dr. Gunther von Hagens.

Body Works 3 is actually fully titled Body Works 3: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. Each of the bodies was donated to science and has since undergone the process of plastination. Each one is stripped of skin and, in some cases, split or otherwise altered in order to show the workings of the anatomy beneath the surface. Muscles figure prominently, but all systems and organs are exposed. The figures are posed in a variety of real life positions as well as in some not-so-usual ones - there's a skateboarder and a trapeze artist, for instance.

But the part I found even more interesting than the actual bodies were the cross sections showing various disease processes. That was truly fascinating.

And then there was the obese man. This is particular display is new to Body Works, as previously the technology did not exist for plastinating adipose tissue (fat). But now they can do it, and as a result we get to see a cross-section of the body of an otherwise healthy 50 year old man who just happens to weigh 300 lbs. The sheer stress that this extra weight puts on his body is palpable - fat covers every aspect of his body - even between his vertebrae. The pressure on his heart is there for everyone to see right before their eyes; it's clear why he did of a heart attack at a relatively young age.

I highly recommend this exhibit. For those who are a bit squeamish, it might be better left off the 'must see' list, but anyone else with an inquiring mind - GO! See it! I dare you.

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