Saturday, July 16, 2005

Bodies of Work

Bill Varian reports in today's St. Petersburg Times ("Under Our Skin") that Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is trying to acquire the controversial show "Bodies Revealed." Varian describes the exhibit as, "a display of cadavers and body parts that provides an inside-out view of what powered them in life.... dissected to reveal what's inside and preserved through a process known as plastination, or polymer preservation."

The photo gallery accompanying the article shows blood vessels in lungs pink and fuzzy as cherry blossoms. When I see the cadaver showing layering and attachment of muscles to the skeleton I think of a mystical tree. I draw a clear distinction between this -- truly a look at what makes us tick -- and the work of German doctor Gunther von Hagens, who has used plastination to place cadavers in "artful" poses.

Andrew Stuttaford, in The National Review ("I See Dead People," May 2, 2002), gave an inkling of that distinction when he wrote:

The clearest evidence of von Hagens's artistic pretensions can be seen in his most "aesthetically" displayed specimens. The Chess Player contemplates the board, his exposed brain a reminder that this is someone long past checkmate. Nearby, a pregnant woman reclines in a ghastly parody of a provocative pose, womb cut open to reveal the eight-month fetus within. The skeleton of The Runner is suspended in motion, tendon and sinew flowing out behind him in an impression of speed. Rearing Horse With Rider features the husk of a stallion mounted by the remains of his rider, a man with a brain in each hand, one human, and the other equine. Art? No, just a savage form of carney kitsch.

I first heard of von Hagens's work through a story on BBC radio. My journal from January 22, 1998, reads:

Ths morning on the BBC -- a story concerning an art exhibit in Mannheim, Germany, scheduled to continue on to Tokyo and worldwide to any museum brave enough to display it. Essentially, a showing of corpses and body parts, plasticized with a technology that arrests decay. In fact, argue opponents, one can just as well show the same thing with plastic models; in fact the procedure makes the real thing look like plastic.

Arguments about real human beings being robbed of their dignity, on display as objects. A man in mid-running stride. A woman sitting at a desk about to answer the phone. "A chamber of horrors," others call it. Some find it fascinating. A doctor is the conceptual artist here.

He said these people requested specifically in their wills to be put on display after death, which leaves me to wonder how specific the wording was. Was it, "Use me for scientific research?" or, "Use me in an art display, intact or dissected, and in whatever artful pose you like"? Did he go around offering money to the desperate and poverty-stricken, who agreed to sell their bodies if not their souls? Are the corpses the remains of people of low station in life, who saw in this display a chance for reincarnation-in-death into a more noble image? In fact, some museum-goers have, after seeing the corpses, offered their own bodies up portmortem. An offering upon the altar of -- what?

And the dual image does not escape me of the German doctor and displayed corpses in Mannheim 1998, and the German doctors and displayed corpses in Auschwitz 1941, etc. They did it all "for science," too, divorcing emotion (save for their enthusiasm) and the soul from objects that once were animate. A human taxidermy.

Second story: that of the birth rate in the U.S. of cloned calves, and the prospect of introducing DNA markers into them to get "nutraceuticals" (the word already coined now), pharmaceuticals carried in such things as cow's milk. So, a dose of drugs and of bovine growth hormone and who knows what other artificially-introduced chemicals? If this becomes the cheaper standard for drug delivery, what does that do for folks who are lactose-intolerant or vegans?

And, of course, the use of living animals as delivery systems, just as human beings are used in Mannheim as art. Usage in death as in life, which might lead to one or the other extreme: either a complete abdication of the soul as one loses individuality and spirit, using and used -- or a transcendance beyond the mechanics of use and of outside stimuli. A spiritual renaissance in tandem with spiritual and material decay.

I have no desire to see "Body Worlds" -- the von Hagen exhibit -- but I might go to see "Bodies Revealed" if it comes to MOSI. I see exploitation in the former, scientific and humanistic relevance in the latter. "Body Worlds" with its "inventive" poses is considered "art", which could just as well be done with "real plastic" instead of plasticized human remains. In contrast, "Bodies Revealed" garners the interest of a museum of science.

When I underwent laparoscopic sterilization in 1983 I was given the opportunity to look inside. I jumped at the chance (not literally; I was in stirrups) and was enthralled. My womb was a great red-purplish planet with two ovarian moons. The delicate fluting of my Fallopian tubes were milky-pale ballet dancers in a dark void. Truly I took an excursion into "inner space," and I view "Bodies Revealed" as an extension of that, a trip through the body-as-temple.

I see "Body Worlds" as a desecration of that temple. The von Hagen reminds me of graffiti I encountered while riding the New York City subway to school. Frequently, ads showing close-ups of women's faces were defaced, ejaculating penises drawn on their mouths. Clearly the graffiti were acts of disrespect in their manipulation of an image.

I see no respect in what von Hagen does. I do see respect in "Bodies Revealed." And that's where I draw the line.


Blogger twila said...

I would be thrilled to see the exhibit "Bodies Revealed". (I mis-typed Bodies as Biddies a moment ago and got lost in a day dream about an exhibit of older women who have had Cher-stlye plasic surgeries reversed so we could see what they would REALLY look like at 60. God, I'm strange.)

I first read about this exhibit and the process of plastination in "Stiff", a delightful book about cadavers.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic: I used to spend some summers in Truro with my grandmother. Last year one of my sister's and I took my mother to Provincetown, which she hadn't seen for 40 years and a place that played a part in her life through my grandmother. It was my first time seeing whales! A lifetime highlight! Every year I come back to Mass. I like to take my mom on a trip, but I usually have to get a sister to drive because I have some kind of driving phobia (Run Away Bride post) excepting the easy driving stuff.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned that the company producing the Bodies show at MOSI Tampa is a publicly traded stock. What I found out was pretty stunning.

First off, regarding Von Hagen's, my research has already found out very clear links between them and the supposed authority called the Anatomical Board of Florida. Much of the attempts to shut down the show plus the initial information fed to the media now looks to me to be orchestrated by the Von Hagen group, probably because Premier Exhibitions is already so successful and now has the backing of the William Morris Agency and the producer of the U2 & Rolling Stones concert tours.

My research has shown me a great opportunity here. This is the first time I've had a chance to find an incredible stock and really kick the tires. A little ago while I found out the company that is putting on the Bodies show in Tampa is publicly traded and they are also the same company that salvaged the Titanic artifacts and exhibits them around the world. Naturally, as an intrepid investor, I was first in the door on Thursday.

I was shocked to find out they are profitable and growing and it is still under $2 a share.

Everyone in Florida seems to know about the Bodies show at the Museum of Science & Industry - MOSI - in Tampa. It has been all over the news and now that it is running it no longer seems so controversial as it did a few days ago.

The crowds are already breaking box office records. I went on the first day on Thursday and it was busy, busy, busy. Today is the official Saturday grand opening and a friend called me to say the place is overflowing, they've got traffic cops and they expect 5,000 paying customers today.

I spent all Thursday night researching this company, Premier Exhibitions, and I started buying the stock immediately yesterday. I found out the following about PXHB

This company has been around for a while and they are going profitable. I found a link to a recent shareholder conference call. When I listened to this I got really excited.

They are expected to triple their exhibition schedule in the next 6 months. That means a half dozen Titanic and a half dozen Body shows running SIMULTANEOUSLY! Twice a year. That is two dozen shows a year producing on average a million plus dollars profit each.

This company has less than 30 million shares outstanding and they are not handing out shares like candy. And they are profitable now.

By my calculations, in the next year they could earn as much as 75 cents to a full dollar per share and this stock is trading under $2 now!

By my calculations then PXHB.OB could be trading at $20-30 in 12-18 months. I have never found a stock like this and definitely not one that I was able to invest in as it became famous overnight. You can't buy publicity like they have been getting.

I think the company is prohibited from promoting their stock at the museums they exhibit in so I figured I better get the word out that the producers of these incredible shows is a PUBLIC COMPANY and it looks like the stock is severely undervalued (sure, I bought some, so I have a vested interest now too!)

The conference call link I included above has them telling the next earnings should be way over the last quarter. Looking at the calendar I figure mid-October will be the reporting date for the quarter closing end of this month, August 2005.

If they earned .02 for the quarter last time with their first profitable quarter, I figure we could see as much as .05 per share or about 20 cents annually in 6-8 weeks. That should be worth at least $4 a share.

I can't figure it out why the stock is so low, but with the worldwide publicity this company is receiving it looks like the stock is going to start ripping up the joint. And it is undervalued by at least 50-80% so I think it will be $5-7 by the end of the year. I hope some of you do your own homework and check this out.

Go google the recent events:

and you can see some small minded folks tried to stop the show. Florida attorney general Crist backed off and said he will not enforce the board ruling. The show goes on and there is nothing they can do now. Like I said, you can't buy publicity like this.

This is the first time I've found a stock this undervalued that I can clearly see is going to explode in earnings and get enormous free publicity from now on.

PXHB.OB is the stock

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An update on my August post about the Bodies show in Tampa. Premier Exhibitions is about to open another one in NYC at the South St. Seaport (Tampa show still running to big crowds). Since I mentioned it, their stock PXHB is more than double and it looks like it will quadruple from here in the next year (their earnings are growing like crazy).
Mosi Fan Tutte

9:09 AM  

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