February 28, 2024

“The Plastinator” gets under people’s skin

A Los Angeles museum is displaying the controversial “Body Worlds” exhibition of Dr Gunther von Hagens. More than 200 human specimens, about 25 of them whole bodies, have been flayed and then preserved with a special “plastination” technique. Then they are posed like anatomical mannequins — a man playing chess with a brain exposed, a man striding a rearing horse, a woman and her baby in the eighth month of pregnancy and so on.

Since the grotesque exhibits began, 14 million people have viewed them in Europe and Asia. About 6,000 people have agreed to donate their bodies as future specimens — although most of these are still alive. Dr von Hagens operates three facilities where the bodies are preserved in his native Germany and in China and Kyrgyzstan. Each whole body specimen requires up to 1,500 hours of work to preserve, usually over 8 to 12 months. The process costs between US$35,000 and $45,000 for each body.

Creative commons
Gunther von Hagens
respect for bodies