The Body as Art, Ed­u­ca­tion and Odd­ity

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro Week - By An­nie Gowen

It could be ar­gued that there are more pleas­ant pur­suits on a cherry blos­som week­end in Wash­ing­ton than look­ing at a bunch of flayed and dis­sected hu­man re­mains pre­served in sil­i­cone, but Con­nie Murray would dis­agree.

The Me­chan­icsville wo­man was among the first ticket hold­ers to see “ Bod­ies . . . the Ex­hi­bi­tion,” an ex­hibit that opened yes­ter­day in Ross­lyn and uses 250 pre­served hu­man spec­i­mens to shed light on the in­ner work­ings of the body.

Murray, 39, as­pires to be a foren­sic ex­am­iner when she re­tires from her job at the Cen­sus Bureau, so she thought ev­ery­thing about the ex­hibit was fab­u­lous: the skele­tons, the ex­posed mus­cles, the cross sec­tion of a lung dark­ened by smok­ing, even the tu­mor sprout­ing hair, teeth and its own eye­ball. Fab­u­lous. “ I’m just fas­ci­nated by it all,” Murray said. “ We’re in on this whole foren­sic- type thing. We want to see a real au­topsy! So it’s nice to see the vis­ual.”

She was tour­ing the show with friend and co- worker Shawn Pater­son, 51.

“ The body, it’s so mirac­u­lous.” Pater­son said, peer­ing at a fig­ure of a man dis­sected to show off the lung. “ Look how in­tri­cate it is.”

Murray con­tin­ued, “ So we watch ‘ CSI’ and all those shows . . .”

“ Me, too!” a wo­man stand­ing nearby chimed in. “ In case I ac­tu­ally have to kill some­one.”

Run by At­lanta- based Pre­mier Ex­hi­bi­tions Inc., “ Bod­ies . . . the Ex­hi­bi­tion” has drawn more than 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing in Lon­don, Las Ve­gas and New York, since its in­cep­tion in 2004, or­ga­niz­ers say. It is set to con­tinue for at least six months at the Dome in Ar­ling­ton, the old New­seum site, and could draw up to 500,000.

It’s one of sev­eral trav­el­ing anatomy shows that have sur­faced in the past decade that at­tempt to de­mys­tify the body us­ing pre­served re­mains. They have drawn crowds — and con­tro­versy — all over the world. One, “ Body Worlds,” was the back­drop for a scene in “ Casino Royale,” the latest James Bond movie.

Some peo­ple ques­tion the ethics of dis­play­ing hu­man re­mains this way.

Roy Glover, the ex­hibit’s med­i­cal ad­viser and for­mer di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Michi­gan’s poly­mer preser­va­tion lab, said that the bod­ies at the Dome ex­hibit were ob­tained legally from China. The peo­ple died of nat­u­ral causes and didn’t have a fam­ily mem­ber to claim them, he said.

The show’s pri­mary goal is to dis­play the bod­ies re­spect­fully while ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic, he said.

“ Most peo­ple don’t un­der­stand a lot of what’s hap­pen­ing inside them,” he said. “ They need prac­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion to un­der­stand how their bod­ies work and about the im­pact of dis­ease, which may make them re­con­sider bad habits like smok­ing, drugs and al­co­hol in­take.”

“ Bod­ies . . . the Ex­hi­bi­tion” made the news again re­cently when some­one swiped a kid­ney from the show’s demon­stra­tion booth in Seat­tle. It re­mained miss­ing for two months un­til po­lice re­cov­ered it with help from an anony­mous tip­ster. (“ It looks fine,” Seat­tle po­lice Of­fi­cer De­bra Brown said af­ter­ward, ac­cord­ing to the Ore­go­nian. “ I mean, I don’t know how a plas­ti­cized kid­ney should look. But I don’t think it was used as a soft­ball.”)

Claire Spir­tas- Hurst, 6, toured the Ross­lyn show yes­ter­day with her mother, Patti Hurst, 40, a lawyer, and pro­nounced it “ dis­gust­ing.”

She wrote a nicer mes­sage in the com­ment book, though:

“ I think It is a lit­tle skary. Be­cause all of the bod­ies are cut apart and with­out the skin. I learned that you can get lung can­cer from smok­ing. I will not smoke ever in my life!”

Af­ter that, she and her mother sailed out the door — all the 600 skele­tal mus­cles and miles of blood ves­sels in their bod­ies work­ing to­gether to trans­port the two of them into the rest of their Satur- day. Lunch was next. Ei­ther Chipo­tle or the Lost Dog Cafe, they hadn’t de­cided.


Shawn Pater­son, 51, of Ar­ling­ton gets an up-close look at a piece in the bod­ies ex­hibit, which opened yes­ter­day at the old New­seum site in Ross­lyn.

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