Professor Gunther Von Hagen creates a controversial macabre hybrid of art and anatomy, using a technique called plastination to hold organs and corpses in a life-like state. He replaces body fluids and fat with plastic, halting decomposition and preserving the subjects as they are. His Body Worlds exhibitions and public and televised autopsies have caused outcry all over the world: being labelled pornographic, immoral and borderline psychotic. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches declared that his exhibit was a breach of ethical and moral values, opposing Christian principles and even natural law, and stressing that human dignity must be respected after death. And yet, on average, five people attending the Berlin exhibit every day signed up to have their bodies donated, bringing the total number who have made this commitment to 3,700. Von Hagen believes his work allows people to look at death in a new way, without fear and allowing an appreciation of their own anatomy.
“I had long arguments. Is it art or not? And I always said, no, no, no – but then I realised the people see the specimens in an emotional way. It goes beyond information. I understood step by step that plastination opens the hearts of the people to themselves. They recognise themselves, get a new kind of body pride.”