Dead Bodies and Archaeological Corpses: Aesthetics and Body Worlds

Naw, not gimmicky at all!

Archaeology and Material Culture

Last week Times Square hosted a fashion show of sorts at which three models were decorated as anatomically correct, partially de-fleshed bodies.  A day was spent body painting the models with exposed muscles, nerves, circulatory systems, and skeletal elements that rendered them walking anatomical textbooks.  Artist Danny Quirk’s inspiration for the Times Square performance was the Body Worlds exhibit, a display of artistically preserved dead bodies.  The models were walking advertisements for the exhibit at the Discovery Times Square Museum.  Body Worlds complicates facile definitions of death and the corpse, clouds the distinction between entertainment and edification, and underscores the symbolic power of the dead body that has long been clear to archaeologists.

Body Worlds is a series of exhibitions of actual dead bodies preserved through a process called plastination, which replaces bodily water and fat with plastics.  The plastinated bodies can be posed in a…

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