Body Worlds – Gunther Von Hagen

I consider myself really lucky. Well I say lucky… I work hard in order to do the things that really interest me. This generally means travel and seeing as much of everything as I can. A large percentage of this is art, or beautiful scenery that I can take photos of as ultimately this makes me happy. Happiness, much like art, is completely subjective to the individual. Some people find happiness in going to the pub, others laying on a beach and some, like me, like to see and experience as much as they can.

I think that this is why this display appealed to me. I am sure that you have seen the cover photo and are thinking, well this looks terribly morbid and a bit yucky, but hang in there with this post and maybe, I can at very least change your opinion on this fascinating display of the human body.

If you haven’t heard of Body Worlds, this is an art/scientific project where bodies which have been donated (by the people who have passed away, or by parents of children who have passed away) are put through a plasticisation process and turned in to works of art, which display muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, veins, pretty much anything you can find within your own body.

Over the last week I have been in Amsterdam, and I had heard of the project, and morbid fascination drove me to want to see it. There are Body Worlds across the world and each project is different. This one is around… Happiness.

The display is over many floors and you start at the top and work down. It starts with an explanation of what happiness is perceived to be and the effects it has on the body. Also the outside influences which can assist with the pursuit for happiness, such as the activities that you do, the people that you send your time with and the foods which you eat. There is then an explanation about the bodies used. Everything you see in the museum is real. Just so that you are aware, all the photos you see in this post are taken by me, so apologies for any reflections that get in the way, some of the displays are behind Perspex and it can make it really difficult to capture great shots with museum lighting.

You will find in the place, the body laid out in minute detail, from the nervous system, bones, organs and veins so you can inspect everything, along its full bodies, where the skin has been removed so you can see the muscle structures, tendons and how they bend and flex. This is truly a beautiful sight, and something which Da Vinci, along with many other of the exploratory artists would have been excited to see.

A word of warning to the squeamish, there are foetus’s in this display and children who passed away before birth. This can be hard for people to see, and I haven’t included the photos of those in this post, but personally I think it is a good thing that these children have been immortalised, not forgotten and I hope that the parents who gave their children to this project feel that these young loses have felt that the project has done them justice.

When I first thought about going to see this, I did think this could have been something very macabre, I mean, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, to do and see a museum full of dead people in this way, but the layout is so up beat and beautiful, it is hard not to feel happy when walking around this,

It really demonstrates what an amazing thing our human body is, and how we take advantage of it.

Each display has been given the time and detail which shows the audience how amazing we are.

You will see EVERYTHING of the human body, in minute detail, and I have to say, there were very young children being take around this display and even at their young ages, they were completely enthralled by the set up.

There are also interactive areas, where you can play on swings, ride a bike, take your own blood pressure, see your mood on screen through the attributes that your facial expressions are displaying and pull a happiness card…

All in all, this is not some macabre and depressing show of something morbid, but rather a celebration of life and the human body. It shows the efforts that we go to, to make ourselves and others happy and impacts that has on us.

I would urge anything who is visiting Amsterdam to take the couple of hours it takes to walk around this, to go, no matter how you feel about death as this might just change your mind.

If you want to find out more about the project, or plan a visit you can see the website here.


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