The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Body Worlds... Naked

Amy, it looks like your campaign for museal sex education has a new champion: Gunther von Hagens has added plastinated corpses having sex to his Body Worlds show in Berlin. Of course, it's all terribly artistic, because it's based on a Leonardo da Vinci drawing (oddly featuring some gender confusion?). Having seen one of the Body Worlds shows, I can confirm that it's not in the slightest bit sexy or erotic, despite von Hagen's strangely pornographic preference for leaving genitals, nipples, and pubic hair intact on his otherwise flayed specimens. However, there is plenty of abjection: I think I've already written about my revulsion at seeing a plastinated, heavily pregnant woman posed as an Odalisque. It's an interesting thought to keep in mind for me right now, as I am writing a literature review about The Body As Object: how we have very powerful expectations of bodies as being vital, active things, and how seeing them dead and frozen in caricatures of living causes us to shudder in disgust at this experience of the uncanny.

3 comments:

Amy said...

I think this is a classic example of just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

But it also makes me wonder if they were a 'real' couple in life?

Probably not. That would be bad luck, both dying at the same time.

Which suggests they had never even met.

Which makes the whole venture even more distasteful. Not to mention disrespectful.

There is a line.

Gunther van Hagens, you've crossed it mate.

J said...

Your reaction is fascinating to me, too - would it have been OK if they had been a couple? Is there a significant difference between a posthumous re-enactment of physical intimacy and one that invents it where one never existed?

Amy said...

Nope, just think it's even worse. I'm generally not keen on the concept of human remains on display. This Bodyworlds stuff has always seemed like cheap voyeurism packaged as 'art' to me. I don't really get the point. It's pornographic, titillating freak show fodder. And to top it all I'm not at all convinced about von Hagen's integrity, nor what his true motives are.