Still Life
0 comment Thursday, May 8, 2014 |
In 2008, Gunther Von Haagen brought his Body Worlds exhibition to Manchester's Science & Industry museum. I visited out of pure morbid curiosity, and then wished I hadn't gone at all. For me, the plastination of corpses had not taken away any of the horror of seeing real dismembered organs splayed out in glass boxes.

Recently I have been considering the artistic and scientific merits of Gunther Von Haagens work, and came across an essay by Lucia Tanassi in The Anatomy Of Body Worlds.
The essay was named "Twilife: The Art and Science Of Consuming Death."
Tanassi raises many issues about the Body Worlds exhibition, firstly by suggesting that humans have a "curious discomfort with death" and we crave knowledge of our mortality in a clinical, non-threatening way.
The plastination in Body Worlds is designed to halt the organic process of decay, and produces
"full body specimens that are dry and odourless and can last for an indefinite amount of time."

Gunther Von Haagen aims to promote the disadvantages of obesity and smoking, but it could be argued that immediately facing tar-covered lungs feels a little too visceral.
I certainly felt sick looking at the innards of other humans!
In "Twi-life: The Art and Science Of Consuming Death", Tanassi doubts that Haagen will be successful in promoting healthy lifestyles through plastination of ruined organs.
It is believed that Gunther Von Haagen has created a "new sociology of death", wherein we are free to satisfy our curiosities by gazing upon some poor sod encased in plastic.
This particular method of viewing cadavers for educational purposes is new, but death and art have been interlinked through-out art history.
For example, Rembrandt painted "The Anatomy Lesson Of Dr Tulip" and is famous for "Vanitas" still life.

In this day and age, it is rare that we would come across a corpse.
However in previous centuries, humans were used to public executions and open-casket funerals were more common.
Tanassi explains with the concept of "twi-life" playing on the idea of an "after-life".
Tanassi imagines that through plastination, the cadavers gain a new plasticized identity and even, social life, as the public flock to view them.
In this particular "piece", Gunther Von Haagen was inspired by an anatomical drawing of a man holding all of his skin in one hand, to show his muscular structure.
In drawing form, the picture is fairly easy to confront, but conjured in to reality by Haagen, it becomes positively grotesque.
Tanassi argues that Von - Haagens message to "democratize anatomy" is overshadowed by the sheer power of human curiosity to view the dead. "The gaze" is heavily theorized in Fine Art history, so it is understandable from an artists perspective, that Tanassi would question the motive of Body World visitors.
One thing is for sure, Gunther Von Haagens work has definitely raised some debate between both the art and science field!
I would be interested to know your experiences of Gunter Von Haagens work, have you been to a Body Worlds exhibition or seen the live autopsy ?

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