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Friday, June 29, 2007

1,001 Things To Do With A Cadaver

Let's say you have access to a whole lot of dead bodies. It doesn't matter why. You've just stumbled upon a whole...bunch of them. They are just there. Clogging up the driveway or something, just slowly decomposing. A collection of skin, muscles, limbs, eroding to bacteria as the days go by, organs liquefying, hair and nails and teeth falling out. Do you call the local Council and ask them to arrange a bulldozer to remove these corpses? Do you shed a tear and wish them better luck in the next life? Or do you, like controversial anatomist Gunther von Hagens, decide to make them into works of art before putrefaction sets in?


Gunther von Hagens: Bringing Sexy back!


If seeing skinned humans isn't your thing maybe von Hagens' 'Discover the Human Body' exhibition isn't for you since there are a lot of flayed bodies on show. However there are an increasing number of people who can sit through autopsy videos while munching happily on pop tarts, thanks to shows like C.S.I. that have so desensitised us to the horrors of seeing homicide victims with their guts splayed all over the shop, that teenagers can often tell us what sort of bullets were used to murder someone with by the exit wounds on the body. In my opinion Dr von Hagens displays all the symptoms of the kind of guys who jack off to crime scene photos...but that may have a lot to do with my prejudices on German people in general.

'Aztec priests used to dance around in the flayed skins of victims in fertility ceremonies for their god Xipec Totec. Tell me those dudes didn't know how to throw a bitchin' party!', I say, a little too loudly on the bus. I mention this to Rohani, who has agreed to come along to this thing. She and I had been talking about skinning dead people last Sunday and it seemed only right to watch it done by professionals. Rohani reads the brochure for the Exhibition and mentions some facts about it, 'It says here that there are "...approximately 160 authentic organs, "orgen configurations" (hyuk, hyuk) and a broad collection of whole-body plastinates-"'
'What's a "plasternates"?'
'Corpsy things. Preserved using the...um...plastinisating procedure.'
'Ah.'
'-"offers an unprecedented view of the human body." Do you think there'll be a corpse of a pregnant woman with the baby still inside her? How cool would that be!'


Luke Skywalker was happy resting in the gut of a Tauntuan


The other passengers on the bus stare nervously at each other and edge away, ever so slightly, from Rohani and I. One reason that these folks might have been desperately looking at the outside scenery was that they had no idea where we were heading and may have mistook us for cannibals on the way to the morgue for a bit of brunch. Another reason was they had heard of the 'Discover the Human Body' Exhibition and had heard some of the uncomfortable rumours that surrounded it: namely that Dr. von Hagens used the bodies of executed Chinese criminals. These hurtful, baseless allegations that the eccentric German was buying the corpses of political prisoners such as the Falun Gong (Chinese for: 'Please harvest my organs') by the wagonload hasn't dampened Dr. von Hagens' childlike enthusiasm for his morbid little hobby. Though he has responded publicly to his critics. "Ziss is und outrageous accusation!", replied von Hagens in a press interview, "Vere do these people get off ut saying zese thinks? All my victims..(what's the proper vord?)...subjects gave their bodies willingly. Because they luff. They havink vision. They are luffers of art!"

We step off the bus filled with worried passengers and make our way to the Showgrounds, where the exhibition is taking place. Tickets bought, we go inside....to a pretty lame spectacle. There is fake, plastic vine on the wall. Enya is playing at a low volume in the background. A skinless athlete is in the centre of the room, dead, yet playing basketball. 'Words fail me,' I mention to Rohani who is grinning as she glances around the room.
'I feel like a kid in an abattoir!' she gushes.

Soon we are glancing around at various body parts that have been placed around the edges of the room in glass containers. Most of the display cases have bad descriptions of what these things are followed by a diagram of the body part and (what are presumably) 'WARNING: DO NOT TOUCH!'-type signs written in Korean. Misspelling is rife with most of the exhibits. We stare at shrivelled up bits of liver and think about beef jerky.

Rohani and I come to one of the main exhibits: Skin Man. It is a fleshless guy who is holding his folded skin in one hand, like a matador holding aloft his cape. I stare at- what to my untrained eyes -looked just like a prison tattoo of a knife on his wrist. Rohani reads the description offered out aloud. 'How bad is this? "The skin. This covers your body and prevents your organs from falling to the floor." Well...duh!'

Skinless in Seattle



The rest of the day is spent looking at skeletons riding bicycles, looking at circulatory systems, trying not to bump into kids who were running around while their parents chased them, saying things like, 'Come on Jeremy! Put down that gall bladder right NOW young man!'

Now, I did enjoy myself since I don't often see partly formed children with spina bifida floating around in formaldehyde on a Saturday. But speaking as someone who laid down $23 for an entrance fee, I think the least von Hagens could do would be to supply us with a hobo to bisect on the way out.

15 Comments:

Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

Gunther looks like Herr Flick of the Gestapo and the baby in the womb looks like a 7-year-old child. How many hidden references to masturbation are there in this post? "Jack off", "beef jerky", "put that gall bladder down", etc. The old Fatman would have just put up a picture of a naked woman (with her skin still on).

8:16 pm  
Anonymous Broadzilla said...

Enya? That's disgusting.

8:49 pm  
Anonymous suzanabrams said...

Hey Fatman,
The pictures are making me feel like I want to throw up...plus the idea of stumbling over dead bodies.
It's just too much!
Excuse me...

9:21 pm  
Blogger nik said...

sounds cool but i think i'd preffer to see the Kuntz-Kamera. Do they let you play with the entrails

1:00 am  
Anonymous kyknoord said...

Sounds like they're letting a merchandising opportunity slip past. Imagine if Jeremy could be the proud owner of a gall bladder autographed by Gunther von Hagens himself.

8:51 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

GB- When it comes down to it, my Freud of the Jungle, every post I've ever written is a hidden reference to masturbation. Wait. When do I hide anything?

Broadzilla- Ah, Broady. Back from Internet exile I see. Having Sail Away play in the background made the whole experience so much more disturbing. I am reminded of an old joke that I just made up: 'What's worse than someone who beats off during an autopsy? Someone who beats off during an autopsy...while listening to Enya!'

Suzanabrams- Ooh. Sorry about that. It is a little bit too Hellraiser for some people. I should have put a disclaimer at the top of the post. Too late now I guess.

Nik- Security was pretty non-existent. One could have sucked cerebral fluid from the ventricular systems in one of the brains that was lying around and no one would have noticed. But, no, I didn't do anything crazy with entrails.

A quick note about the Kuntz-Kamera
that Nik just mentioned-

a) No, it is not a type of camera used by the paparazzi or leering old men in womens' change rooms.

b) It is supposedly an excellent Museum of Freaks funded by Peter the Great. Peter the Great- lover of midgets, amature dentist who did random dental checks and sometime tsar of Russia- would give away free shots of vodka for anyone visiting his "Museum of Curiosities". When Nik and I (along with travel companion Chris) were in St.Petersburg we were going to visit the Kuntz-Kamera but we chose the ONE DAY in the month that they were closed. Damnation!

Kyknoord- Little Jeremy would have traumatised all the other young boys and girls during show-and-tell. That's for sure.

11:34 am  
Blogger suzanabrams said...

Don't be silly now, Fatman!
I so enjoyed it. Was just joking. :-)

6:01 pm  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

Okay. Now I'm really disgusted. You call that a joke? Have some more beer and try again.

(And what is it with Russians and midgets and... stallions, anyway?)

2:40 am  
Blogger Mermaid of Moorgate said...

I saw this in london. It was pretty freaky and unreal, to be honest. All these skeletal beings poised, pouting and strutting their stuff, putting the remains of their flesh on display. It was at that point that I decided never to go to London Fashion Week again.

1:05 am  
Blogger Old Knudsen said...

I saw this show at Normandy in 1944 well ish, to answer yer question about the dead bodies I'd look at their parts and put them up on my blog, maybe dinner and explosive sex later(depending on decay)

2:39 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

Suzanabrams- Yes. Dead people= funny.

Broadzilla- You understand why I stagger out of Amature Comedy Night covered in tomatoes and my ears still ringing from the crowds booing at me. And I don't even get up on stage.

Mermaid of Moorgate- Now that's funny! Fat Ramblings is currently looking for a gag writer to "spice up" some of the new posts so that I can keep Broadzilla amused. Maybe you should apply? The pay is minimal and you will get absolutely no job satisfaction but I'll be happy to interview you if interested.

Old Knudsen- I had spent some time writing a script for a sitcom (Working Title: My Dinner With Jeffrey Dahmer) which had all the hallmarks of a comedy for the non-rating season. There would be two dimensional characters a-plenty, a lovable dog, a cheesy theme tune and a token streetwise kid who lived in Jeffrey's neighbourhood...who would end up being sodomized before and after death. The studios were naturally uncomfortable with the idea of having a necrophiliac cannibal as a main character. They did say that although the "Trepanation Scene" was one of the most meticulously researched (and, might I add, hilarious!) they didn't think the viewing public was "quite ready" for what I had to offer.

6:28 pm  
Blogger Lord Milky said...

Hello Fatman, my apologies for not returning your visit earlier.

I like Von Hagens. He spent some time dissecting bodies late night on Channel 4 a couple of years back. Some called it irresponsible, some called it educational. I called it porn.

6:47 am  
Blogger Yawn said...

You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day. Xanax is strong, PDE is wild. Break on through. Or something cheesy, recycled, and cliche like that. Jim Morrison needed to die in a deadly way.

2:05 pm  
Blogger River said...

I saw this exhibition when it came to Adelaide. I went expecting to be fascinated and came out feeling that, while interesting, it could have been "more" somehow. There wasn't a man holding up his skin and security was everywhere because in earlier exhibitions people had been discovered doing things with the female genitalia on display.

7:03 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

Lord Milky- M'lud, he is a weirdo who gets erections when he cuts into the flesh of the dead. And who wouldn't?

Yawn- Send me a postcard when you return to planet Earth.

River- Yes. One needs to beef up security in case...some people...decide to do things with female bits. Ha ha. And on a completely unrelated matter I must now go and return a sample of the clitoris back to the Von Hagens Institute.

3:28 pm  

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