If you’ve seen an ad for New York City’s Body Worlds, you’ve no doubt wondered what it’s all about. To put it plain, it is indeed all about the world of bodies: the exhibition, at Discovery Times Square, features 200 examples of the human form that have undergone Plastination—a way of preserving bodies invented by anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens. Bodily fluids and soluble fats are replaced with plastics that harden. The fascinating results on display in NYC include 19 full-body specimens, as well as organs and other parts of the body. Each one takes approximately 1,500 hours to complete.
Various Body Worlds exhibitions have been seen around the world; the first exhibition was held in Japan in 1995. Currently, nine exhibitions are on display (in North America, Africa, Asia, Europe) and more than 36 million people have seen them. This one, created exclusively for New York City, focuses on the effects on the body of stressful living. While probably not for the squeamish (or for young kids), it provides an unprecedented look at the anatomy of the human body, and the effect of stress and poor living (tobacco, alcohol) on it. The show looks at everything from the respiratory system to the nervous and digestive systems. The exhibition also offers insight into the mind/body connection, as well as smart lifestyle choices. The effects of diseases are shown on healthy and afflicted organs, as are the effects of alcohol and tobacco. (If you weren’t worried about smoking and drinking before, you will be now.) The exhibition’s ultimate goal? To encourage healthy living by showing the results of the opposite kind of behavior.
As you wander though the galleries, you’ll see an athlete posed to illustrate how the muscles work while playing sports; you can observe a walker, a smoker, and more. When you see the impact of certain negative behaviors in the body, you may well be inspired to change your ways.
Interesting media displays complement the show; check out info on food consumed by families in various parts of the world. Be prepared to take your time; it’s definitely more of a “thought” exhibition than, say, the Star Wars exhibit with which it currently shares a home.
The exhibition as a whole aims to look at the stresses of the modern-day world on the bodies, as well as our responses to it. Many of the displays are disturbing or shocking, but all are fascinating. (Donors request that their bodies be used for the exhibitions for the purposes of education.) The exhibits include such areas as a cardiovascular gallery with information on heart attacks; a display on holistic eating; and a look at decision-making with chocolate (sigh) as the focus.
The exhibition offers an absolutely unprecedented look at the human body (and it’s us; how can we not be interested?) Previously, much of this information was available only to medical practitioners. A vital part of the exhibition focuses on the tempo at which we live our lives. (How often did your mom say, “Slow down!” Now you know she was right all along—about that as well as so many other things.)
You may find yourself with a variety of responses to the exhibition: discomfort, shock, recognition, affirmation. But you will come away from it almost certainly knowing things you did not before, and you will also almost certainly have a new appreciation for the–your—body, and the way you treat it.
Body Worlds is showing through September 5th at Discovery Times Square, 226 W. 44th St., 866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com/exhibitions/bodyworlds.