Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Anatomy for Beginners

This, quite simply, is morbidly brilliant television. Perhaps morbid is the wrong word, as the show is not dealing with death, but rather a pre-deceased body.

Currently showing on SBS Television in Australia, we have already seen the first three episodes, dealing with Movement (muscles, bones, joints, tendons), Circulation (blood vessels, nervous system), and Digestion (mouth, throat, stomach, intestines). The fourth and final episode relates to Reproduction.

Hosted by Doctor Gunther von Hagens, a groundbreaker in the field of "plastination", where the "water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay, and even retain most microscopic properties of the original sample" (quote), it is a fascinating look at the machine that is the human body. A dissection of a donor cadaver is undertaken with each show to display the separate systems that we use daily. As he says in his clipped German accent "I will unravel the mysteries of the human body". And unravel he does.

Find a link to the Channel 4 UK website here.

I do get a laugh out of the fact that the station warns viewers that it contains "Adult Themes" and "Nudity". No mention of the fact that they will be breaking a real human body down into component parts for our education. I guess in a way it is nudity of the most extreme variety.

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zzzpirate said...

much of the controversy about Gunther comes from suspicians of where and how legally he obtains his fine specimens - some of the bodies from china are under suspician.

there is also hesitantation about the non-traditional presentation of the bodies - the heroic napoleon on horse for example - the general public prefers a more neutral posing of the body and preferably in a clear glass cube where they feel they are not sharing the same physical space with the plastinated form. I think this has to do with westerners not wanting to deal with their own mortality. Unfortunately, I missed this screening of gunter's work as I have abandoned my TV - I find the hesitation about science being art as puzzling as surely both serve to show how man/woman conquering his/her environment gives a better understanding his/her place in it

The Great White Hype said...

Perhaps so. I find it one of those things that truly blurs the line "is it art or science"?

If the art world viewed it as science (although, is this possible for 'purists'?) maybe they wouldnt be so uneasy or offended.