Please note that my opinions are my own, and the opinions of the anyone or any institution quoted are theirs. The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of North Carolina State University, its board of directors, the College of Management or any other college, Student Media Authority, or WKNC Raleigh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Public Viewing of Cadavers: A "Vein" Hope for Immortality

Just what exactly is our obsession with viewing preserved dead bodies? Whether its animals or humans, it seems that those with no tangential interest in anatomy take extreme interest in the display of a bare-bones (or muscle-wrapped, or anything in between) cadaver. The only thing odd may be that I haven't seen yet an advertisement that included a cadaver with the skin intact. Maybe because skin is just too personal... and creepy when its dead.

A recent exhibition in Raleigh piqued my girlfriend's own interest. I understood her curiousity, and felt a bit myself. But how would I take it, having lost both parents and countless influential people in my short life? I put it off.

Then an exhibit at Charlotte's Discovery Place caught her attention and interest, as well as a few of my other friends and family in the area. So far, it looks to be of less quality (and more affordable) than the Raleigh exhibit. I don't have a way to dodge this yet, but luckily the pressure has been low.

And a few weeks ago, an article about pharmaceutical pioneer Sir Wellcome's odd medical collection stated:

The permanent exhibitions contain quite a few human specimens... Next to the chairs stands a head-to-toe slice of a human corpse. Londoners, though, seem cavalier about viewing body parts as art. A diamond-encrusted cast of a skull by Damien Hirst, recently on show in a Mayfair gallery, was noticed far more for its over-the-top bling than for any connection with the human brain.

It seems to me that this obsession with human cadavers is no more than man's fascination with his own mortality. To see what I'm talking about, look at any local bar for a gent with tattoos, and I'll bet you'll find most of them have tatoos of skulls or skeletons. Even the most docile of us wonder about The Great Beyond and Eternity. Perhaps the prospect of having one's body displayed to the world, or the prospect of having it preserved, is our own attempt tricking the mind into accepting death by serving its egoistic tendencies.

It's quite interesting though, that this behavior serves no evolutionary purpose, insofar as I can tell, as most humans stop reproducing far before they expect to die, and far after their children have left the nest.

1 comment:

Happy Trail Treader said...

So I have recently read a story by Cat Bohannon from "The Georgia Review" entitled "Shipwreck." It is an account her visit to China, where the exhibit began. Her quest was to both find out the process (first-hand), and to see what, exactly, qualifies this as art.

She writes, "These pieces are portraits, of a kind, in that they carry remnants of the individual who once lived inside them...they are a kind of monument, the way a shipwreck, once discovered by divers, is a testament to both its cargo and its journey into the sea."

I highly recommend you read it. The piece can be found in "The Best American Nonrequired Reading" of 2005 (in my personal library, if you wanted to borrow it).