I Want Your Body

Af­ter long con­tro­versy, he did it at last. Dr. Gun­ther von Ha­gens fi­nally opened his con­tro­ver­sial Men­schen Mu­seum, dis­play­ing plas­ti­nated hu­man bod­ies propped in plas­tic poses, and Solveig Stein­hardt went to check it out.


When he first de­cided to open his ca­daver mu­seum in Ber­lin, anatomist Gun­ther von Ha­gens en­coun­tered re­sis­tance from the Ger­man courts, ac­cord­ing to which dead hu­man bod­ies must be buried – not ex­hib­ited in a mu­seum. It took him a cou­ple of court ap­peals, but his first Men­schen Mu­seum was fi­nally in­au­gu­rated in Ber­lin in Fe­bru­ary. Von Ha­gens in­vented the plas­ti­na­tion tech­nique in 1977, and has been im­mor­tal­iz­ing bod­ies and body parts ever since. His ex­hi­bi­tions, each fol­low­ing a spe­cific theme – from The Cy­cle Of Life to The Story Of The Heart or The Hap­pi­ness Project, have trav­eled the world earn­ing ac­claim in ev­ery city. For the faint at heart who can’t take the sight of a dead fel­low hu­man, how­ever, von Ha­gens also cre­ated an an­i­mal body show, An­i­mal In­side Out, which has been on tour since 2010, fea­tur­ing a 3.5-me­ter-tall adult ele­phant. The per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ber­lin mu­seum, called The Facets Of Life, shows 200 body parts and 20 whole-body prepa­ra­tions, each ex­hibit fo­cus­ing on cer­tain or­gans or on a spe­cific dis­ease in or­der to open our eyes to the dif­fer­ent (bi­o­log­i­cal) as­pects of our lives. The ex­hi­bi­tion is cu­rated with an ed­u­ca­tional ap­proach to keep mor­bid­ity at bay and to sim­ply show the public the in­ner beauty of our anatom­i­cal func­tions. But where does von Ha­gens get his bod­ies, you may ask? Be­lieve it or not, there are a lot of peo­ple out there who wish to be seen and re­mem­bered af­ter death, and the anatomist has be­gun a cam­paign to get more and more peo­ple to do­nate their bod­ies to science – his science, at least. To this day, 15,049 peo­ple from all over the world peo­ple have signed “body donor agree­ments” to guar­an­tee a worldly life to their body af­ter their soul has flown else­where. A few of th­ese donors were present at the mu­seum open­ing cer­e­mony. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll meet th­ese peo­ple again, plas­ti­nated and be­hind glass. Panoramaplatz 1 (Alexan­der­platz). www.memu.ber­lin

“The ex­hibits open our eyes to the dif­fer­ent bi­o­log­i­cal

as­pects of our lives.“

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