Plastic People

When this show came to Brisbane I took The Minister to see it.

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez  has closed the travelling exhibit of dissected cadavers, Bodies Revealed, saying it’s evidence of the world’s moral decomposition.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25159979-401,00.html

I sat outside and read a book.

I’m not into the hospital and surgery and emergency blood and guts TV shows nor the Anatomy for Beginners (where they cut cadavers up and draw on nude models to demonstrate locations of body parts) or Plastination a TV show that demonstrated the process.   I dealt with enough blood and gore as an OH&S officer and manager.

Politics aside (eg Chavez, Venezuela)- is there a moral dilemma here? 

Should children be allowed to see human beings – once someone’s mother, brother, father, sister, friend ?  (schoolchildren were viewing the exhibition in Brisbane)

Is it “science” to display dead bodies…or exploitation?  (The claim has been that the money earned is used to develop the process of plastination.)

As a science I think it is brilliant, as a sideshow exhibition – I don’t think so.   Perhaps its an extension of “any means to earn a quid”…

When I read the story I thought – “…good on ya…” (closing it down) – but then I thought am I just being like the people centuries ago, who wouldn’t/couldn’t accept that the world is a globe…

I still lean towards it being a brilliant scientific tool but not an exhibition…but I’m still not sure…

…knowledge, education, learning…but how far do we go?

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30 Responses

  1. Like you, it’s not my cup of tea but I can’t comprehend what the moral problem is. As I understand it, attendance was not compulsory and the ‘children’ attending might have been studying Biology in which case, the exhibition was probably a very useful resource.

    Presumably, the ‘children’ in question were there with parental consent and who made judgements about each child’s readiness to deal with what was to be exhibited.

    There are those who argue that ‘death education’ should be part of each child’s education, but I for one, am not sure that such an issue deserves ‘mass treatment’.

  2. N5 – as i said – I confess – to a personal dilemma – your logic (as always) is immutable…

    …the moral problem is that these are people…dead admittedly – but isn’t this a “cheap ‘n nasty’ way of achieving what could be done in other ways?

    If I assessed my grandchildren (17, 15, 11, 7, 5) I would have to say that all of them could “probably” handle the “exhibition” – but would I take the risk with the two younger ones…no.

    Another question that springs to mind – are we “hardening” (no pun intended) our children emotionally…what about respect?

  3. Interesting topic and perspective TB.

    I guess the controversy is whether it constitutes art or science (or both).

    I haven’t seen it myself (is this the same exhibition that appeared in Casino Royale?).

    I agree that it’s fascinating from a scientific perspective and perhaps “confronting” from an artistic perspective.

    It’s interesting that the Venezuelan President chose to use an “artistic interpretation” to justify closing it down, rather saying it was offensive because of the explicit subject matter.

  4. Are the cadavers donated with the full knowledge of what they will be used for? I certainly hope so.

    If they are, then combined with everything N5 said I can’t see a problem although i can certainly see how it’s not to many peoples liking.

    No harm no foul I guess and each to their own I suppose

  5. sreb, I find the “reason” they closed the exhibition down amusing…

    His tax agency closed the cadaver exhibit in Caracas a few days earlier, saying it was investigating if the bodies had been illegally declared in customs as made of plastic.

    it gets worse… I just saw the “in the Caracas…”

    Its too easy to joke about it! That could be you in 12 years…(male life expectancy and your birthday tomorrow and all that)

  6. “I sat outside and read a book.”

    I’m sorry, but the latest menwswear catalogue from Lowes doesn’t constitute a book.

  7. Thank you for reminding me of my impending mortality TB.

    I knew I could depend on you for a few uplfiting words…
    With friends like you…

    But anyway, no one messes with my caraca’s unless they have my express permission…!

    🙂

  8. TOO (2)

    It is believed that many of the cadavers are from the Chinese Government – ex Falun Gong…

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    sreb, Lowes have a catalogue!

    Please stay on topic! 🙄

  9. tbqueensland, on March 9th, 2009 at 7:12 pm Said:

    “but isn’t this a “cheap ‘n nasty’ way of achieving what could be done in other ways?”

    Not having seen the ‘exhibition’ I am not in a position to say whether or not the ‘aims’ could be achieved in other ways. But apparently the ‘reality’ is the powerful attraction. As I say, these things are not for me, but I don’t agree (generally speaking) with censorship because it offends my personal sensibilities.

    I didn’t agree with Rudd’s intervention re the Bill Henson matter and I probably disagree with President Hugo Chavez but I stress I haven’t seen the material in question.

    “Another question that springs to mind – are we “hardening” ”

    Probably, but certainly not compared with past practices and compared with other cultures we still wrap our children in ‘cotton wool’.

    There is no doubt we have extended the ‘Age of Childhood’ significantly and in so doing we might have extended the ‘Age of Irresponsibility’.

    Not sure what you mean by ‘respect’.

  10. Wow! well if that’s the case then no way for me, that’s terrible

  11. When this show came to Brisbane I took The Minister to see it.

    I sat outside and read a book.

    like reb, I’m also sorry TB, but you didn’t take the minister to see it, she saw it by herself, you were her means of transport 🙂

    Not knowing the subject matter, I do have some questions which would decide how I view the dilemma.

    Who owns the cadavers? Did the cadaver give permission before death to be exhibited in this way? Have the families given permission or been paid to have them viewed?

    I see it as a moral issue, these were real people once and we should treat our dead as we do our living, with respect and dignity – that’s what makes us a humane and thinking society, what sets us apart.

    The human remains are of somebody’s mother, father, brother or sister I’m assuming. Give respect for what they once were, living, breathing, thinking people, it’s not a sideshow.

    I can’t really see any reason other than medical research that people would want to view and learn from cadavers.

    I’m an atheist, I have no religious or spiritual convictions about the body after death, it will just be buried or burned, but to be preserved and put on display for people to gawk at – I just wonder why would anyone want that for themselves.

  12. KL – apparently many are ex Falun Gong

    Pretty shocking if true

  13. “There is no doubt we have extended the ‘Age of Childhood’” N5

    I would have said the opposite N5, we’ve managed to “reduce’ not extend childhood…IMO – sadly…

    Re: “respect’ – the dead…and that raises another question who “owns” a cadaver…the state, the family, should it be “delivered” to replenish the Earth…?

  14. The Only Ones, on March 9th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    2, I “believe”, I haven’t researched – have read other articles…would need verifying…do some checking tomorrow – off out now!

  15. OK Tb, have a good time. I will do a bit of checking and see what I can find out.

  16. Oops,Tb should be TB

  17. TB back to your post:

    ” people centuries ago, who wouldn’t/couldn’t accept”

    It’s worth pointing out that for DaVinci and Michelangelo it was regarded as illegal and immoral to dissect a human being. They broke the law and it was done by candlelight in the middle of the night. For them it was all for the purpose of knowledge and better understanding.

    Testing the bounds of ‘acceptability’ must be part of life. But how far is too far as you question.

    Usually it’s a gamble that can have disastrous consequences for the loser.

  18. I’ve only bee to three funerals. Always try to avoid going.

    The last one was the funeral of an uncle I loved very much. They had him in the open coffin for display. When it was my turn I noticed they had dressed him in his best clothes. Right out of character, as he was always seen, in life, getting about in shorts. And they had put his bloody reading glasses on. Yuck. Seeing this unreal caricature was almost as bad as attending the funeral itself.

  19. The Only Ones, on March 9th, 2009 at 7:59 pm Said:

    KL – apparently many are ex Falun Gong

    Pretty shocking if true

    In which case, they were probably gaoled, victimised, tortured and had their organs removed before death released them from their life of pain and misery at the hands of the Chinese govt.

    If what you say is true, we should not even accept the exhibit into the country on the grounds of human rights abuses.

    Pretty sure the families and cadavers would not have given permission for the display also, they are probably still hoping to see them alive one day.

  20. Having seen the exhibition in Sydney a couple of years ago at the Homebush Olympic precinct without fully comprehending what it was beforehand, and not knowing the true provenance of the bodies, I came away, and still feel, disgust. The knowledge that these were once living, breathing people who did not bequeath their bodies for scientific purposes, to be stared at by morbid voyeurs, but are, apparently, ‘street people’ that the Chinese government donated/sold for this ‘entertainment’.

    I saw it in 2006. Apparently the exhibition was here again in 2008.

    http://www.amazinghumanbody.com.au/

  21. “Pray for THE DEAD and fight like hell for the living”
    – Mother Jones

    I believe Chavez is fighting hard for the living in his country. Particularly those who were treated like the living dead previously.

    “What difference does it make to THE DEAD, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
    (Mohandas Gandhi)

    I believe that Chavez has been elected democratically & is trying to offset the horrors of CORPORATE TOTALITARIANISM.

    “Who owns the cadavers? Did the cadaver give permission before death to be exhibited in this way? Have the families given permission or been paid to have them viewed?”

    Good points kitty…and I’ve read nothing in the reports about the bodies being Falun Gong.

    N’

  22. I agree KL, I was taking it from a comment by TB @ 7.28pm (can we have # comments please) and @ 8.03pm he said

    2, I “believe”, I haven’t researched – have read other articles…would need verifying…do some checking tomorrow – off out now!

    I agreed to check it as well. Warrants further research I think before we could say one way or another

    Sure as shit will be a deal breaker for me though if it’s true!

  23. I saw the show in London a few years ago and it was fascinating. The guy behind it also did an autopsy live on TV – which also created controversy.

    I think that the exhibition is very educational.

    Just checked – I saw a different exhibition. The one I saw was by Dr. Gunther von Hagens.

  24. …Dr Von Hagens claims that only donor bodies make their way into his Body Worlds exhibits, but in 2004 German news weekly Der Spiegel alleged he had made use of the “unclaimed” bodies of mental patients, the homeless and executed prisoners sourced from China. Dr Von Hagens responded with legal action and in March 2005 an injunction order was issued against the magazine.

    Similar claims have also been laid against Dr Sui’s operation. The Falun Gong-linked Epoch Times alleged last year that “it is highly possible that the human bodies in Bodies: The Exhibition, or at least some of those bodies, are the corpses of Falun Gong practitioners in China who have been tortured to death”…

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/a-bizarre-body-of-work/2007/05/03/1177788310328.html

  25. joni, on March 9th, 2009 at 9:07 pm Said:

    ” The one I saw was by Dr. Gunther von Hagens”

    I think he is actually the main ‘villian’ in the process having set up in China. Of course he denies the allegations.

    Two reasons why it might be true. Firstly, the process is labour intensive – up to 1500 hours per body. Secondly, bodies are readily available.

    Of course, in the West we show ‘respect’ for our friends and relatives by burning them at very high temperatures. Lol.

  26. Of course, in the West we show ‘respect’ for our friends and relatives by burning them at very high temperatures. Lol.

    But that’s our choice, did these exhibits have one?

  27. Slightly off topic I know, but it appears that during the Howard Govt’s reign of terror, Australia was a country of rendition.

    Asylum seekers win compensation for ‘disgraceful’ interrogations

    In May 2005, Villawood detention centre was opened to a visiting delegation from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

    One by one, they were allowed to interview the Chinese political dissidents, Christians and Falun Gong spiritual movement members who had come to Australia to seek refuge, and were being held at Villawood while their claims were being assessed.

    Many of them were and are represented by immigration lawyer Michaela Byers, who has slammed the interviews as a “disgrace”.

    “Especially that the interviews commenced without Department of Immigration officials present, that they allowed the Chinese delegation basically to do as they pleased and there was no protocol or guidelines in place to ensure that the detainee’s personal information or privacy was safeguarded,” she told ABC Radio’s PM program…

  28. Especially that the interviews commenced without Department of Immigration officials present, that they allowed the Chinese delegation basically to do as they pleased and there was no protocol or guidelines in place to ensure that the detainee’s personal information or privacy was safeguarded,” she told ABC Radio’s PM program…

    Must make Howard huggers proud, little by little the scum rises to the surface,and it’s a big pond.

  29. Must make Howard huggers proud, little by little the scum rises to the surface,and it’s a big pond.Lang Mack, on March 10th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Nicely put LM…and some of us have long memories (not much time) – but long memories!

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