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Controversial body exhibition opens

A Chinese medical foundation is putting on a display of “plastinated” human bodies in a new Paris exhibition space.

A DISPLAY of “plastinated” human bodies, which was refused by a leading Paris museum has now opened at a new exhibition space in the centre of the capital.

The exhibition, being organised by a Chinese medical foundation from Hong Kong, displays 20 bodies, all treated by a process invented by controversial German anatomist Gunther von Hagens.

The bodies are displayed so as to show the structures that lie under the skin including the muscles, internal organs and nervous system. The organisers insist the display is educational, and there are information panels with extra details about body structures that can be seen and a film show about the body’s cells.

Von Hagens has travelled the world with his exhibition Body Worlds since 1995 and is also known in Britain for having performed a live autopsy on Channel 4 in 2002. His process replaces the body’s fluids with plastics, resulting in a body that looks like a model despite being anatomically real. The complex process takes about 2-3,000 hours of work per body.

Body Worlds’ success – 26 million have seen it – has resulted in a number of copies. The exhibition in Paris is not connected with von Hagens and is described by the owners as using bodies from a range of Chinese universities, medical schools and institutions, research centres and laboratories.

Our Body/A Corps Ouvert is being held at Espace 12 Madeleine, a new 1,200m2 exhibition space in Paris 8th. This follows its refusal by the Musée de l’Homme, a national museum of anthropology, history and culture in Paris 16th.

In 2007 von Hagens’ Body Worlds was similarly refused by Paris’s Cité des Sciences, a public body that promotes science and technology. Its director François Aubert has said that displaying human bodies “poses enormous ethical problems” and can “easily shock people’s deeply-rooted convictions.”

The exhibition runs until May 10.

Photo: AFP/Patrick Kovarik

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