The beginning of my Photography domain.
The exhibition of Body Worlds travels worldwide, and consists of both real human bodies and other preserved body parts. Which are prepared using a particular technique called plastination, which is used to reveal these structures. Gunther von Hagens, is the exhibitions developer and promoter, and was in fact the person who came up with the technique in the late 1970s. Gunther was born on the 10th of January in 1945, in Poland. He mainly grew up in the East of Germany, but himself and his family also lived briefly in Berlin, to which they then settled in Greiz where Gunther lived till the age of 19.
With being a haemophiliac, this is what stimulated his interests in the human body and medical science, which later led to his world on the traveling exhibition of Body Worlds. Although he studied medicine at University and also worked at the University of the Institutes of Anatomy and Pathology as a lecturer, he is best known for the plastination technique. This very technique over the years has been progressively developed, to which it followed on to having a Institute of Plastination in 1993, in 1996 he ran a plastination center in China, and he also directs one at the State Medical Academy in Bishkek. In the year of 1995 Body Worlds was first shown in Tokyo, with its overall aim to this day being that’s its purpose is to educate the laymen of the human body, to then leading to better health awareness in its spectators.
For it’s first 20 years, the technique was used to preserve small specimens. The equipment was then developed more so it was able to preserve a whole human body. This exhibition has been developed over years by Gunther von Hagens, showcasing whole human bodies platinated in lifelike poses. Each exhibit contains around 25 full body plastinates, that shows some organs all of which are donated via the body donation program. Some of which show diseases and conditions that the human body could face, for example one features the lungs of a non-smoker and ones of a smoker.
Although this exhibition is high in popularity, it has also had its share of controversy and other issues aimed at its perspective. Aspects including; in 2002 Gunther was the first to proceed in a public autopsy in the UK in over 170 years, to which he received a letter from Her Majesty’s Inspector if Anatomy, explaining that if this act was done it would be a criminal one. This then led to 130 complaints after it was shown on channel 4. Also after the several legal challenges he faced with the likes to Body Worlds, he announced in 2004 that it would be leaving Germany and it wold then be showcased and exhibited all around the world. It has to this day been hosted in over 50 museums and venues in North America, Europe and Asia and has received more than 37 million visitors, making ts the most popular tourist attraction to date. It has even been featured in a film, Casino Royale in 2006. Von Hagens even played a cameo role in the film.
Reasons for me researching this particular person and his work was firstly because of the connection I felt his work had with my own theme of death. Being that I wanted to cover as many works and artists that I feel hold that concept within their work, so I could gain inspiration and more substance behind the meaning of my own piece. Also with the likes to the work of Gunther von Hagens, there are two aspects when researching his work which were, gender portrayals, and consent. With the likes of gender portrayals, taking into account the accusation that people thought the body worlds was making the men bodies have more of a heroic role compared to the women’s. I wanted to take this into consideration with my work as I plan to photograph both genders. I don’t want them to be categorised as being different in a sense that the men look more overpowering in their photographs than the woman. There’s also the concept of consent,, as it is the primary focus of discussion in the Body Worlds exhibition. Being that it is publicly displaying human bodies there is a form of consent made before as all the bodies are donated. The aspect of consent is something I need to take in mind, being that I am considering taking photographs of real people and I need their permission in order to use the photographs in my planned exhibition.
Lastly at the age of 65 Gunther von Hagens revealed that he had Parkinsons disease and was told he had seven years to live. Which made him plan and decide that he would have his wife plastinate his body so that it would be shownin one of the places that holds the exhibition of Body Worlds.