Meet “Tai Chi Man.” He’s a real human body, on display at the Bodyworlds exhibit in the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science. He’ll be on display until May 28th, along with a great many other real human bodies. Bodyworlds is made possible by its creator, Dr. Gunther Von Hagens, who invented Plastination.
Plastination is a scientific process that extracts all bodily fluids and soluble fat from a body, or body part, and replaces it with plastics, such as resin and elastomers; the polymer material then has to be hardened, or cured, by way of heat, gas, or UV light. This process not only halts natural decomposition, but also preserves even the most microscopic details of the specimen.
The figures are all posed in certain ways, emphasizing physical aspects of the body. This gives the viewer a better understanding of his, or her, own locomotive and nervous systems, clearly showing the interaction between the musculature and the bone structure of the human body. In addition to this, other systems of the body are also shown, in detail, by way of manipulating the bodies in certain ways, or adding dyes to emphasize qualities of the digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
What really makes the presence of actual bodies important, is the fact that the viewer can see all the specific qualities and unique characteristics, such as cancers and tumors, natural deformations, and/or arthoplasty and other artificial alterations, of a certain bodyform.
Even so, there has been heavy debate as to whether the positive scientific benefits outweigh the potential consequences of displaying the bodies in ways that make them appear alive, manipulating them as if in action. Some fear this exploits the men and women who donated their bodies to the process, making them something like a circus sideshow. Still others argue the manipulation has more artistic qualities than scientific.
However, science, by and large, is continually represented artistically. Drawing the human body in physical poses, for example, is an important way to consider the locomotive principles of the muscles, with relation to the bones and other structures of the body. The fact that it’s artistic, and somewhat sensational, plays on the curiosities of people who wouldn’t normally be interested in learning about the human body. It certainly got my attention.