Martes 7 de Mayo de 2002, Ip nš 14

Exquisite corpses
Por Ernesto Mallo

Religions promise us eternal life after death: in heaven or hell, but immortality after all. The thought is for many a relief of the only certainty all humans have: that some day we will die. This, of course, regarding soul, because even the most pious person knows that when they die their flesh will corrupt until disappearing.

But now that can be stopped. How? Donating your future dead body to Gunther von Hagens, an anatomy professor at the University of Heidelberg who has been perfecting through the last twenty years a technique created by himself called "plastination". Using a series of lab operations, including the replacement of grease and bodily fluids for resins, the scientist gets the bodies to keep the appearance, the texture and the consistence they had when alive, forever.

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These shows, allegedly only of interest for anatomists, pathologists and doctors, have proved unpredictably appealing for the general audience, who have been attending the embalmed installations by thousands.

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But the German professor assures his case is different: although in the elegant display of his specimens there is a self-evident aesthetic criterion, he claims he is not an artist but just a modest plastinator.

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Von Hagens continues to plan exhibitions to promote the knowledge of the human body and its care. Von Hagens's activity is not regulated by any law, since plastination is a very modern technique. When it comes to ethical issues, he shelters in the fact that all exhibited bodies come from voluntary contributors.

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Through the times, the famous Soviet undertakers and Victorian taxidermists have tried to find the elixir vitae that keeps flesh intact and uncorrupted after death.

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Plastination has been saluted by many scholars as the solution to the problem: von Hagens has succeeded where ancient science and modern art have failed.

Translation by Carolina Friszman


  28/05/2002. Radar Magazine.