Last Weekend of Body Worlds

Body Worlds: the Original Exhibition of Real Human Bodies

Efforts to understand the structure and mechanisation of the human body are hardly new. For centuries, medical practitioners have been illustrating, dissecting, preserving and presenting the body in numerous ways, from cabinet curiosities in private collections to medical museums accessible to the public. Stemming from this tradition is the exhibition Body Worlds, currently showing at Sydney Town Hall, where you can view actual human remains skillfully preserved thanks to a process known as plastination.

Body Worlds creator and inventor of the plastination technique, Gunther von Hagen, wants his exhibition ‘to be a place where visitors gain more insight about their living body’. Indeed, the exhibit takes an educational approach. Explanations of organs and anatomical figures are straightforward and informative. Figures, such as Tai Chi Man and the Kneeling Lady, pose rigidly to illustrate muscle and skeletal features. An array of internal organs such as lungs, kidneys and hearts sit neatly in glass containers. The anatomical textbook feel of Body Worlds, with bodies that look more like medical school mannequins than human beings, and an anti-smoking/pro-healthy lifestyle message all help alleviate (sort of) the discomfort of seeing what once were living, breathing people.

An independent ethics review conducted by a committee at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles found human specimens on display at Body Worlds had been donated for educational purposes with appropriate informed consent, and that the exhibit has considerable educational value. While Body Worlds and similar exhibitions (yes, there are others) are confronting and raise ethical questions, preserved body displays continue to capture the public’s curiosity.

Catch Body Worlds exhibition before it closes on Sunday, 31 March, and make up your own mind.

Body Worlds: the Original Exhibition of Real Human Bodies
Sydney Town Hall, Lower Town Hall, Druitt Street entrance

Tickets: $18 – $32, free for children under 5 years
Closes: Sunday, 31st March


Words: Maria Zarro