It was really just by chance that I spotted the flyer for Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out while we were checking out of our hotel in Ogden, Utah (on our way out to Portland). This exhibit was one that I had been pining to see for a long time, as it has only been on display in a handful of cities in the U.S. We had been discussing what we might like to do on the trip back through Utah. Originally, we thought maybe we’d check out the zoo, but this time around, these monstrous plasticized animals beat out the living, breathing ones at any zoo. This extraordinary exhibit is only going to be in Salt Lake City temporarily before it heads back to Europe.
The day of our visit coincided with an art festival being held outside of the Leonardo museum. We had bought our tickets ahead of time because the website claimed the lines would be long and one would have to be there for a specifically chosen day and time. On this occasion, though, the lines were non-existent and the lady running the entrance told us we could come and go from the exhibit whenever we liked. The rest of the art museum was closed, so the “free day” included with the festival really just meant you didn’t have to pay to enter the museum. The Body Worlds exhibit was also discounted for the event.
Going through the exhibit is a spectacular journey because the types of animals and the manner in which they’re displayed are progressively changing in size from small to large, becoming more and more intricate. The first several specimens, for instance, are skeletons. But then you begin to see more plasticized organs and even some fur. I’m sure some of you are curious as to what plastination is, so here is a link to the exhibit’s website: http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/plastination/plastination_process.html
One nice thing about the exhibit is that none of the animals were killed; they were all from zoos or parks. These animals were not harvested, but rather preserved. The comparative anatomy on display here was eye-opening. Where else can you compare the stomach of a caribou to that of a human? Or the brain mass of a giraffe to that of a cat? No organ or animal group went unexplored in Body Worlds.
The caribou were captured in action, galloping high in the air. Every muscle was taut and the sight could be taken in from every angle. Of all the animals on display, I think the caribou were one of our favorites.
This little lamb was hanging out on his own woolly fur coat. I appreciated the subtle humor here! It might seem surprising to some, but nothing here was gross or terrifying. I saw little kids and grandparents alike completely engrossed in the displays.
The animals with plasticized blood vessels were an intricate woven mass of arteries and veins dyed a startling red.
Many of the animals still had fur around their face and feet, a feature that made them appear strangely adorable. The more powerful muscles of some of the larger animals, like this bull I’m standing next to, were just astounding!
The full-sized giraffe was by far the tallest of all the creatures and it stood beside the beautifully sliced “giraffe mobile” (below). It was hard to wrap one’s mind around how anyone managed to plasticize and slice these giant animals into such thin sections.
The visual presentation of all the animals revealed a strangely artistic and beautiful side to anatomy. It isn’t very often that one is able to remark on the beauty of the guts of a lion. Going far beyond what taxidermy is able to do, plastination shows the intricacies of an animal’s actual inner workings. This is true inner beauty!
There were several ostriches on display. One was the skeleton, one was the blood vessels, and then there was this lovely fellow showing off his muscular build and fancy plumage.
Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that I have a strange attachment to camels. I couldn’t wait to see this magnificent beast in all his gutsy glory! I had a good laugh watching a little girl and her dad try to figure out why this giraffe had three heads. At some point, it clicked in everyone’s head that this fellow had his head split in three to show all the layers of skull and tissue. It makes for a freaky and breathtaking finale to this exhibit. Of course, little Jr. was equally as remarkable as the big guy:
Due to the United States’ laws on endangered species, a few animals were not brought over from Europe for this show. The elephant, the gorilla, and the grizzly bear all had to be left behind across the ocean. The exhibitors did, however, include a giant photocopy of a slice of the elephant. It was hung and illuminated on the wall just beside the exit. From the look of the ears and the relatively small size, I’m going to say it was a young Asian elephant. I personally would have loved to have seen both the gorilla and the elephant in person. I suppose Chris and I will have to catch the show in Europe some day!