Dr. Hagens’ Body Worlds: When Dead Bodies Become Art

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chessmanPhoto: © Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, www.bodyworlds.com.

The figure sits gazing contemplatively at a chessboard seemingly focused on its next move. Unclothed, the figure is “created” in such a way that we can see the sinew of each muscle and the skeleton of each finger. The surprise, however, is that this “figure” is neither formed from clay nor marble. It is a preserved human body that has been plastinated and posed to create a work of art that is part of the traveling exhibition BODY WORLDS. German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, who is the creator and promoter of BODY WORLDS, developed the plastination process that preserves bodies in such a way that they can be touched, do not smell or decay, and can even be posed.

Gunther von HagensPhoto: A7babzorona

Plastination is a five-step-process. The first step is called fixation. This simply means that the body is embalmed, usually in a formaldehyde solution, in order to halt decomposition. After any necessary dissections take place, the specimen is then placed in a bath of acetone.

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womanbwPhoto: © Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, www.bodyworlds.com.

In the third step, the specimen is placed in a bath of liquid polymer, such as silicone rubber, polyester or epoxy resin. At the end of this particular process, each cell is filled with liquid plastic. The body is then positioned as desired. Every single anatomical structure is properly aligned and fixed with the help of wires, needles, clamps and foam blocks. And as you can see from the picture below, ANY pose is possible.

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