BODIES is an exhibition of corpses in suspended animation. They have been preserved by a special chemical process, so that they keep the organic qualities of the ”original” as they are transposed into gleaming, hyperreal sculptures. But the difference between these bodies and the wax bodies of Madamme Tussaud’s is the fascinating implication that the sculptures are REAL (even though they are in suspended animation, ie halfway to being real). The bodies promise a contact with the material, but they can never deliver their promise. This is what makes these simulacrum sculptures, these holograms of flesh, more than just Uncanny; the bodies are literally undead.
So while the manifest message of the expo is that you should know the complex functioning of your body in order to take care of its health better, the latent one is a direct call to the Death Drive, an invitation to the necrophilic obsession underlying our psychic apparatus. This is already clear from the way people visit the expo in clusters, unable to turn their gaze away from the sculptures, yet seeking group support for the uneasy visceral emotion that the sighting causes. But it becomes even clearer when you visit a small stand in the hook, where you can touch some organs. Oddly, the experience is disappointing. The organs feel like plastic. The sight of individual body parts often reveals their pathetic resemblance to meat from the supermarket. Apparently the obsessive urge to touch the bodies, to feel their ”authentic, material substrate”, comes from the Death Drive.
The wondrous surprise the exposition holds in store is that underneath all the layers of intricately organized meat, fat, nerve and bone, there is absolutely nothing – emptiness. Most of the sculptures are made up so that they show the layered nature of the human body, muscles under muscles, bones under bones.The sculpture is thus ”a body without organs”. Through its many vessels, the body manages complex flows and communications with the outside world.
Nowhere is the communicative nature of the body more magnificently rendered than in the ”blood vessels” part of the expo, where the vessels are presented according to their mapping on the body. At first it seems like a beautiful coral, but when you look closer, you will see a complex web of threads woven around the body, forming its contours as a virtual sculpture. The body here is quite literally a communicative network.
Other sculptures provide a fascinating insight into our bonds with animals. The muscles of a corpse are pulled up by invisible hooks to reveal the structure behind them. Suddenly the meat looks fishy, with the muscles forming beautiful surreal fins. Other sculptures resemble cloned misfortunes from HP Lovecraft, something between Giger’s ALIEN, chicken liver and Robbie Williams in the ”Rock DJ” video.