Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bodies the Exhibition and Bodies the Controversy

Today we're going to talk about the "human rights" of bodies. The use by artists of bodies for the study of anatomy used to be a routinely accepted practice (at least post the grave robbing era of study). Today, we use cadavers for many kinds of study including crash test dummies, crime decomposition models, post death free face lifts, "beating-heart" cadavers and more. I really enjoyed Mary Roach's book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and I highly recommend it if you are curious about what might happen to your body after you donate it to science.

In fact, Bodies the Exhibition, was offering discounts to artists to come and draw. However years of assurances that the cadavers on display were legally obtained in China, the company that runs the exhibit admitted that it could not prove that the bodies were not those of prisoners who might have been tortured or executed. A legal settlement came after an investigation into the origin of the cadavers/parts in the exhibit.

Under the terms of the settlement, the exhibit cannot obtain new bodies without documentation proving the individual’s identity, cause of death and consent for the body to be displayed, a requirement that may slow or end the importation of bodies from China.In addition, the exhibit must display, on its Web site and with a sign at the entrance, a statement explaining that it is not able to confirm that the bodies being displayed were not Chinese prisoners who may have been victims of torture and execution, the attorney general’s office said. The company is now looking into the feasibility of a program in which bodies would be donated from within the United States in the future. Will this become the newest form of performance art?

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