Monday, June 22, 2009

Talk of the Town

Ever since the "Body Worlds" exhibit arrived in Haifa a couple of months ago, it has been the talk of the town. Here, like elsewhere around the world, people are alternately fascinated and grossed out by the idea of plastinated human bodies, stripped of their skin, displayed in various poses.

The exhibit has already been hosted by major cities around the world such as Tokyo, Berlin, Los Angeles, and London. It's a bit surprising that little Haifa has been put on the map in this way. Though there have been various controversies surrounding this exhibit or other ones like it in the past, here "Body Worlds" had to contend with angry rabbis. Haifa's chief rabbi, She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, asked the public to boycott the exhibit. It seems, however, that the call to boycott had little success. People are advised to buy tickets in advance online, and even with that option, tickets are fully sold out on weekends. This is despite the fact that the exhibit is open until 22:00 on Thursdays-Saturdays - quite unusual hours for an Israeli museum - and the regular entry price of 85 NIS, which is far from cheap by Israeli standards. It's that popular.

The first time I had heard about this exhibit was when I was in Berlin in 2001. I read about it in the newspaper and my first reaction was disbelief and horror. Over these last eight years, I've become desensitized to the idea and therefore was ready to go when "Body Worlds" showed up in Haifa. Coming out of the exhibit, my feelings on it are that it is less about education (which it claims to be) and more about making money. I think that even though part of the exhibit includes listing lots of facts about the human body, unless one has a background in anatomy or biology, most of the information will be meaningless at the end of the day.

Let's face it: we've come to see "Real Human Bodies," not for a science lesson.


Anonymous said...

I just went to the exhibit last week, and I think I must agree with you. I felt very confused about what I felt when I left the exhibit. It was fascinating, but I felt that it was mostly a display and less trying to really teach me about my own body. The descriptions were terse and medical, and I had a hard time understanding a lot of it. And I felt that at a certain point, they showed too many bodies in too many cute positions (aka the poker players) that I thought to myself: what is this teaching me about science and the human body? very little.
i felt almost more enchanted by the spiritual quotes and poetic descriptions on the wall about human life. but now I realize that it was a cheap way for them to make this exhibit "respectful" and not voyeristic -- but they failed. in the end, i was more enchanted by the bodies itself and not about connecting my learning to my own body... to learn about myself -- which was the ultimate goal, right?

Nizo said...

I don't think I would go either.. I find it offensive..