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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pickled Punks, Protested

Posted by on August 22 at 12:00 PM

The press release begins like this: The “Seattle Museum of the Mysteries condemns Premier Exhibitions and the Seattle Theater Group’s exhibit ‘Bodies: The Exhibition’ as a blatant exploitation of cadavers for financial gain.”

I saw a different version of the same idea a few years ago in Chicago—real dead people, in action poses, some without skin, some just skeletons—and it was satisfyingly gross. And educational. Just like the marketing said.

The controversy: the dead folks in this exhibit come from Dalian, China (“the hub of the corpse-processing industry”), where poverty, corruption, human rights abuses, and a robust black market in human organs casts suspicion on the origin of the bodies. The exhibitors say they have certification from the Chinese government that the corpses (including bona fide, old timey pickled punks) died of natural causes, were not disappeared Falun Gong members, etc., etc. But, according to the Seattle Times they have refused to show the documentation.

The Museum of the Mysteries press release continues: “The directors feel the exhibit of over 21 cadavers which are displayed without consent of the deceased is a gross disrespect of the dead… The cadavers have no public verification of their origin and have a history of leaking fluids.”

The recalls the Victorian-era anatomical museums and freak shows (also billed as educational). Ironically, the Museum of the Mysteries is the closest thing we have to those old-fashioned oddity emporiums—it features exhibits about crop circles, bigfoot, UFOs, an oxygen bar (“to help hangovers, headaches and allergies… ask for price and nose hoses at desk”), and their famous ghost tours. Wait a second—ghost tours? Isn’t that exploitation of the dead for financial gain?

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Seems like a fairly blatant attempt on the part of the Museum of the Mysteries to garner some press attention from an issue that has nothing to do with them. I can't say that I'm impressed.

Once you are dead, your body is just meat. Who cares what happens to it. Only religious and superstitous type care about corpses. To the unsetimental scientifically minded there's nothing wrong with exhibiting a dead body.

I saw the show in Denver - it's definitely educational but I thought it was disgusting. Not really the queasy type but seeing a plasticized dead fetus inside a plasticized dead woman was a bit much for me...

I can't believe people actually go to shit like this. it's so obviously not ok.

Jen Aniston gabbed and stuttered (not surprisingly) stupidly about seeing this exhibit. Leno sat rather stunned and didn't know how to segue. It was a rare moment of worthwhile TV, almost. Maybe some bloodhound can sniff out the video. It was nearly a year ago I saw it, and my memory is fairly spent from the amount of dope I smoke.

I felt dirty and contaminated after seeing this show in July at NYC's South Street Seaport.

I went there thinking it was produced by Dr. Gunther Von Hagens, who originated the plastination technique and who displays only bodies whose owners had specifically requested that they be used in this way after they were deceased. But, after buying our tickets and entering the show, there was a small sign stating that Von Hagens was not associated with the show.

The bodies themselves are fascinating to view, if you are at all interested in how people are put together. The "educational" aspects, however, were clearly an afterthought. I believe that the producers of the show took whatever body parts their Chinese partners provided and then tried to construct an educational "frame" around the parts and the show.

While we walked through the show, we were speculating on the provenance of the bodies, since no information was provided in the show itself. Based on their short stature (most of the bodies are set on pedestals), and the fact that all but two were male, I joked that they had been political prisoners in China.

In the final room of the show, there were two staffers at an information booth. They told us that the exhibits were created from "unclaimed bodies" in China. My "political prisoners" joke wasn't so funny anymore. Notwithstanding reassurances from Chinese authorities, it's not hard to imagine corrupt hospital officials working with corrupt secret police officials to ensure a steady stream of disappeared "undesirables" into the plastination factories, with the preserved remains marketed overseas at a healthy profit.

Had I know the morally ambiguous background behind the source of the bodies, I wouldn't have visited the show.

Hey, first of all the Seattle Museum of the Mysteries is an educational non-profit and the ghost tour is arguably not exploitive. The museum accepts donations and the ghost tour is an educational historical tour visiting the pioneers and Bruce Lee.

The museum would never show an unconsenting body, naked and skinned for gawking not to mention one that has a history of leaking bodily fluids.

Its very telling the entire exhibit is made up of unclaimed Chinese persons. Why? Because no Chinese person in their culture would willingly allow their body to be exhibited in such an undignified manner.

Please note Premier Exhibition that is presenting this has nothing to do with education.

FYI, the 'real' version of this (what Bill thought he was going to) is coming to Vancouver:

My friends who have seen Bodies the Exhibition said it helped them appreciate their bodies & how the human body works. It is purely educational & I'm VERY excited to see it in Seattle. What an amazing opportunity to learn about the wonders of our bodies!

As for the Museum of the Mysteries -- they specialize in UFO's, Big Foot, and 'historical' ghosts. I seriously doubt they have ANY credibility to comment on an educational health display... unless, perhaps, it were on Mars.

I'm amazed that the Seattle Theater Group has anything to do with this. I donate to them as a form of memorial. What is key for me is that these bodies are not from people who gave permission for their bodies to be used for science, but from paupers, too poor to afford a burial. This is the kind of thing that makes great anti-American propaganda all over the world and is the subject of horror films. Move over, Indian Burial Ground, Seattle Theater Group is funding the Peripatetic Chinese Peasant Cadaver Freak Show.

Bill, I think alot of people go see these exhibits without realizing the background.
I think that is what the promoters are hoping so they can rake in the money before the public notices and they are shut down - that seems to be their method in Tampa and San Francisco. San Francisco had to draft an ordinance so they wouldn't return. Ft. Lauderdale was able to stop a showing. There is alot of information on this on the internet from accredited news sources.
I wish The Stranger would do an article!!

Political prisoner cadavers?

The Guardian,2763,1129261,00.html

..."The controversial German anatomist Gunther von Hagens last night agreed to return seven corpses to China after admitting that the bodies used in his exhibitions might have come from executed prisoners.
Professor Von Hagens, whose show Body Worlds provoked fascination and disgust when it opened in London two years ago, said the corpses would now be buried. His statement follows a damning exposé this week by the
German magazine Der Spiegel.

It revealed that at least two corpses out of some 647 stored by the anatomist at his centre in China had bullet holes in their skulls.

Splashing the story on its cover under the headline Dr Death, the magazine this week produced damning email correspondence from Prof Von
Hagens' Chinese manager, Sui Hongjin.

In December 2001 Dr Hongjin boasted that he had obtained the bodies of a "young man and young woman" who had "died" that morning. The pair were "fresh examples" of the "highest quality", the doctor said - and had been killed by a shot to the head. "

The guy in charge of the "Bodies: The Exhibit" is Sui Hongjin who works for Premiere Exhibits coming to Seattle.
Hongjin worked for the guy who invented plasinization - Gunther von Hagen but please disregard the Der Spiegel's expose that von Hagen's father Gerhard Liebchen was an SS officer currently being investigated for war crimes. Liebchen helped establish the Dalian plant where they process the cadavers for the upcoming Seattle exhibit.
[If this doesn't bother you - fine, but the association is too disturbing for me.]

To date von Hagan is under investigation in several nations who would like proof that the bodies he uses are legitimately and ethically

Family's Nazi Secret Haunts 'Body Worlds' Founder

German pathologist Gunther von Hagens, who has made an international name for himself with his exhibitions of plasticized human cadavers, is raising eyebrows with his plan to open a corpse processing plant in Poland. Worse yet, it has emerged that his main deputy, his father, served as a Nazi SS officer.

I don't understand why the health department isn't doing something. Maybe they are too busy with Bird Flu and Terrorism to bother with the oozing corpses of Chinese street people.

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