I recently went to Body Worlds at the O2 centre. If you’ve not been, this is the exhibition where you see real dead human bodies, with the organs, muscles, bones, veins and ligaments, all exposed and preserved by a process called Plastination (made famous by Dr Gunther von Hagens).
Although an anatomical collection of dead bodies might sound gruesome, and not exactly Saturday afternoon entertainment, I found that the displays actually look more plastic than human, and I quickly became desensitised to the whole morbid side of it. I had to keep reminding myself that the specimens actually were once real people - which is a bit weird in itself.
How the body works…and why it fails
The current exhibition focuses on health, wellbeing and the human lifecycle. You see the amazing changes the body goes through, from conception, pre-natal development, growing, maturing, aging and then eventually packing up.
There's a big emphasis on the affect of our lifestyle choices, such as exercise, diet and drugs on the body, and you certainly get to see both sides of the coin. Some of the more unfortunate exhibits show how their lifestyles have distressed and diseased their bodies, such as cirrhosis of someone's liver (associated with excessive alcohol consumption) and a pair of lungs once belonging to a smoker. You then move on to see the muscular bodies of athletes flaunted in optimal health, posing on gym-rings and playing different sports.
Who we are now reflects what our bodies will be like in later life
I came away with a much better appreciation of how complex the human machine is, it’s resilience and strength, but also it’s vulnerability, fragility and how easily we can destroy it. We’ve only got one body, it’s our biggest asset, and we should look after it!
The exhibition is definitely worth a visit, if you’re interested in the human body or just want some motivation to help you look after your body better and live a healthier lifestyle. Body Worlds is on until 23 August 2009: