Last week I’ve been to the Real Bodies Exhibition in Milan. It shows actual preserved human organs and whole bodies, stripped of skin, to demonstrate how things really work inside of us.
Taking photos was forbidden, so every image here is from the official website.
Last year I used some Real Bodies photos to help me through my muscular anatomy course, so I was curious to see the actual thing. While living tissue scares the heck out of me (every nurse that ever tried to take my blood knows that I’m an hysterical little thing in front of a needle), I surprisingly felt no revulsion looking at actual dead bodies. I even saw 10yo children reading informative cards and point to Mom the most interesting pieces of information. The only moment I felt someway uncomfortable was in the “pregnancy” section, where multiple fetuses were displayed in glass containers filled with preservation liquid: It seemed a lot like a mad scientist lair. Luckily I missed the suspension exhibition too (living performers suspended by wires): that would actually have had me running home without looking back.
I have nothing to say about the artistic value of this exhibition. I know of a previous Real Bodies exhibition focused on the art of the human body, but the one I visited was mainly of medical interest.
The bodies and organs, all from volunteer donors, undergo a process called “plastination”: I do not know the details, but it uses resins to harden tissues until they become almost glass-like. You can still distinguish single muscular fibers or even hair follicles. Some of the bodies still had their beard or pubic hair.
The anatomical sections were divided by body functions and showing whole bodies along with healthy and ill organs. They explained in detail how every system works, from locomotory to reproductive.
The final room showed bodies of athletes in various disciplines. You could actually see the differences in muscular structure.
The staff was very kind, and although there were a lot of guided groups (mostly medicine students), I could enjoy the show in relative comfort. It wasn’t too crowded and the ambient light and music are not too intrusive.
If you’re interested in how the body actually works, this is the show for you.