There Are Bodies, and Then There Are Bodies

The publicity for a touring display called Bodies: The Exhibition calls it "a phenomenal look at the phenomena we call the human body." Commentator Andrei Codrescu says it has left thousands of people depressed.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The publicity for a touring display called "Bodies: The Exhibition" says it's a phenomenal look at the phenomena we call the human body. Well, commentator Andrei Codrescu has seen it and finds it depressing.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Using a new polymer preservation technique, the curators of the exhibit have isolated everything that can be seen in the human body. You can view your fabulous Medusa-like nerves, the miles of intestines, the marvelously precise muscles, the myriad bones, the blood vessels, the heart through which once a minute flows every drop of your blood, the brain which is mostly water, and many others, delicate and complex mechanisms enveloped by the 44 pound organ of the skin,

My son - Tristan, who is studying to be a Chinese doctor - looked at everything slowly and studiously. But I sort of dashed through the crowd thinking that I was in a weird funeral parlor looking at dead people who'd been taken apart for some obscene reason. After spending some time getting the creeps in front of some fetus jars, I fondled a brain carefully tended by a docent. I got to the end of the show and went back looking for Tristan but he was still only in the bones room and had miles of guts and viscera to traverse before the end.

I settled down with some guest books to read visitors' comments. I was hungry before I came, one viewer wrote, but now I'm not. Yup. Somebody else thank to the staff for giving her water when she blacked out in the fetus room. Other people said things like: wow, awesome, isn't God amazing. But there were also a few complaints. It's not interactive, one man wrote, it doesn't move. I agreed wholeheartedly. If it doesn't move, it's just dead meat.

I saw my first body when I was seven-years-old, our next-door neighbor. He is lying in a coffin dressed in a black suit that made him strange because I've never seen him in anything but a dirty shirt and suspenders. I was hugely relieved to see him because I've imagined all kinds of things about ghosts. As soon as I gazed on his form, I knew that the man wasn't in there - he'd left that stuff behind. But the actual guy who moved, albeit slowly, was gone.

After the dead bodies, we went to a show were two burlesque dancers offered their live bodies to be written on by the audience. The dancers were warm and worthy and they gave off heat. Definitely, interactive, much better deal.

BLOCK: Andrei Codrescu, he edits a journal who's name is - I'm not kidding - The Exquisite Corpse.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.