Discovery Place is taking a move straight out of the Hollywood playbook by hosting a sequel to its most popular exhibit ever, Body Worlds.
For those who missed the exhibit when it was here seven years ago, Body Worlds uses a plastination technique created by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens. By replacing body fluids with hardening plastic, the bodies are permanently preserved in life-like poses that highlight the physical capabilities of the human body. The entire process, from first receiving a body to final product, takes between eight and 12 months.
At the start of the exhibit a placard explains that all bodies on display were donated by their former owners, and apparently it’s a quite popular thing to do. More than 15,000 people are currently on an international waiting list. So unless they are looking for some especially damaged livers, I think I’m going refrain from adding myself to the list.
This new incarnation, Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life, is one of nine Body Worlds exhibitions on tour around the world. Others focus on separate themes, such as animals or cardiology. The exhibition on display in Charlotte, designed and developed by Dr. Angelina Whalley, creative designer for Body Worlds, and von Hagens’ wife, focuses more on health and the effects of aging, as opposed to the anatomical emphasis of the previous exhibit.
“I tried to be more relevant here,” Whalley said at the media preview for the exhibit back in November. “I focused on how a body evolves through a lifetime.”
This sequel, however, is definitely a hit.
“We’ve been seeing great feed back from our guest,” says Kailtin Rogers, director of public relations at Discovery Place.
According to their internal survey, 95 percent responded positively to the new Body Worlds, with guests leaving comments like “Unbelieveable! So interesting” and “this makes me want to take better care of myself.” Similar sentiments are reflected on the Twitter wall at the end of the exhibit, where the public can share their experience using #BodyWorldsCLT (so check that out).
The only part of the exhibit that might be of concern is at the very beginning, where plastinated embryos and foetuses are shown in various stages of prenatal development. Though I found this part fascinating, the woman who walked in behind me and audibly exclaimed, “Jesus Christ” was clearly less impressed. So, perhaps this might not be the best idea for a first date.
The exhibit eventually comes full circle with the “Centennial Village” hallway. Here, communities around the globe with large pockets of people who are living way longer than their life expectancy are highlight, discussed and compared.
Unlike the original exhibit that centred solely on the body’s anatomical aspects, Whalley’s focus is on health and the aging process. Whether it’s the smoker’s blackened lung or the information boards about failing vision and other age-related ailments, the exhibit stays steadfast in its message.
As you walk past the black lungs, thinking it doesn’t matter cause you don’t smoke anymore, the next case displays the damage that can be done by “passive smoking.” Don’t let this be cause for avoidance, though. Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life, even in its bleakest moments, is able to capture the beauty in the breakdown of the human body.
There is much to grab your attention. The models alone are awe-inspiring, especially the dancers doing a lift and the two hockey players.
The video at the end, which explains in detail the plastination process, is definitely worth the extra five minutes it takes to watch it.
The coolest part were the informational displays, especially the one about sight and art, using Van Gogh as the example. The display highlighted the connection between the artist’s style and his declining heath, suggesting his impressionistic style was in part due to his loss in vision.
Don’t fret; if you’re not ready to see Body Worlds just yet, the exhibit runs till May 1. So you have plenty of time to hit the gym and avoid getting shamed by bodies, as I was.