Thursday, July 31, 2008

the hall o' corpses

We've got new neighbors at the Artsgarden offices. They're pretty quiet, though; they're dead. Our new friends across the hall are part of "Bodies: the Exhibition", a collection of interestingly-arranged preserved corpses in varying degrees of intactness. I haven't been through the exhibit yet. I'm not squeamish, but it really just doesn't sound that interesting. And, it's a bit of a mass-market product: there are apparently twenty or so similar exhibits by the same company touring around the world. It's not so much a science exhibit as a roving cash generator for Premiere Exhibitions. They're a bit sneaky, too; the Indiana State Museum is hosting a similar (though older, less controversial, and more scientifically legitimate) exhibit called Body Worlds in a few months, and Premiere apparently rushed this exhibit here to beat them to town. They didn't even look at the space until the museum had already announced their run dates. The museum can't really advertise their exhibit at all, until the current one leaves; there's no good way to build buzz for a show, when a nearly identical show is already running....

There's a bit of a controversy about the exhibit, mostly concerning the source of the bodies. The company acknowledges that they get the bodies from China, and for years they claimed that they had consent from all of the donors, as well as a death certificate that said, "natural causes". But when they hit New York a few years ago, the attorney general made them show proof, and it turns out they didn't have any. New York believed the bodies came from the prison system, and it's well documented that at least several of them did. It's believed that the bodies were those of political prisoners, victims of torture. It's also been suggested that the bodies were custom-ordered -- that someone at the body works would call a friend in the Chinese police and ask for, say, a middle-aged, thin, heavy smoker, and they'd generate a corpse from the prison system to match. The exhibit has seen protesters almost everywhere it's gone, though we haven't had any in Indy yet, or at least not that I'm aware of.

So, potential protesters in front of my office! Woo hoo! At least they're saying that the smell isn't actually the bodies, but the cleaning chemicals they used to get the space ready for the exhibit.

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