Body Worlds: Vital
Body Worlds: Vital is the Australian debut of a long-running touring exhibition about the human anatomy. Not for the faint-hearted, it contains the flayed, preserved remains of 18 deceased people, and 150 specimens.
Body Worlds is an educational experience; it’s a novel anatomy lesson, and it’ll enlighten you about your resilience to gore and mortality.
Dr Angelina Whalley has curated the exhibition since its inception in 1995. The preservation is the work of her husband, Dr Gunther von Hagens, who developed the process of plastination (a preservation technique where water is replaced with a silicon-like polymer) in 1977, and in 1993 founded the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany.
Once plastinated, the specimens are dry and durable, and they’ll hold for the next few hundred years. Maybe even longer. The exhibition starts with a skeleton – the least confronting part of our internal makeup.
It doesn’t take long to get to the confronting stuff. There’s a skeleton on its knees, teeth bared, glaring through eyeballs (which are unsettlingly still attached) and holding up a heart, as if begging.
One glass case contains two separate lungs; one clean, and one blackened by years of smoking 20 a day. At the exit there’s a large whiteboard with the header “Before I die, I want to … ” Below are the comments of visitors reflecting on their weak, complex bodies, and the choices that impact them.