...the real genius of his Body Worlds exhibition came less from an understanding of anatomy than of human nature.Why not put bodies on display publicly, charge lots of money to see them, and give the exhibit the gloss of high-mindedness? The customers, in turn, can even pretend that they’re interested in the science of anatomy. But I can’t help thinking that there’s really something much simpler and pre-scientific at work: people pay money to stare at dead human bodies — very artfully displayed, to be sure.
One of the functions of civilization has been to imagine and acknowledge that we are more than this body — precisely by honoring the body. That’s not a thought easy to come by at Body Worlds.
What’s so disquieting about it is that these human bodies, arranged for aesthetic effect to appeal to paying customers, are money-making commodities, pure and simple.
Let’s not fool ourselves: there’s a prurient interest in looking at dead bodies. Sure, you can learn a little, but you also sense something morally askew in the deliberate appeal to that interest. There’s a little of the circus sideshow here.
And that's sort of my take on it, although I'm somewhat more conflicted because despite my reservations I actually want to see the bodies too, for what are most assuredly prurient reasons. And yet, it just doesn't feel right, does it? What do you think?