What is the Real Bodies exhibition?
The real bodies exhibition UK by Imagine Exhibitions is a worldwide feature, with over 200 real anatomical human body samples! The specimens have been preserved using the plastination technique; dehydrating the body and replacing these with silicone, epoxy or polyester and then hardened / cured. A technique that was developed by Dr Gunther Von Hagens from Germany back in 1978 (International Society for Plastination 2018).
Imagine Exhibitions (2018) states: “The exhibition pushes boundaries while seamlessly blending art, science, and emotion as a museum of the self.”
Was I intrigued by all of this? Of course, I was!! Let’s go!
I went to take a peek at the exhibition held at the NEC – Birmingham. As a student nurse and the health editor of the Birmingham City University magazine, I really needed to take a look inside not just for my own benefit but to review this for other student nurses and healthcare professionals out there.
There were 10 different sections to this exhibition:
Anatomist’s StudyBreatheHungerRhythmMoveThinkWhat Becomes of UsLoveBeginningsRepair
Each section had their own story and meaning behind them. Each piece, took you on a journey, not just from life through to love and into death but it told a story. It draws you in, spiritually and culturally, creatively and in such an artistic way you cannot help but fall in love with it. Imagine exhibitions have really done a wonderful thing here. From start to finish, this was just incredible.
As a healthcare professional or a student, you just do not get any opportunity like this. To see how the human body truly works, inside and out and every single detail. For me, personally, it has been great to see this and put a visual perspective onto the knowledge I have learnt at university from my anatomy and physiology lectures.
You might be thinking that this is a little bit grotesque, but it is only what we are made of and it will make you see everything so differently. I am already looking at my hands, right now as I type, thinking about how they are structured and how they are functioning. This exhibition was so thought provoking, actually a lot more than I realised whilst I was walking around.
As you walk around there are pieces on the walls to read, you HAVE to read every piece, and get a small glimpse of what the true meaning of life is within each section.
There is a reason they gave meaning to the names of the body systems, because each one is just so much more than another body function. For example; my favourite piece from this exhibition, the cardiovascular system, was renamed ‘Rhythm’ “This magnificent cycle all flows according to the rhythmic drum of that all important muscle – the heart” (Real Bodies UK 2018).
Walking around the exhibition, you forget these are real human beings and body parts. You get so drawn into it all, the artistic, creativity of it, you see right past the anatomy and physiology of it all.
It was an artistic explosion!
There were also pieces that had been preserved in glass boxes, pieces of organs that had been affected by cancer or a slice of the brain that had cerebral bleeding. Additionally, there was a section that compared two lungs, one healthy ‘normal lung’ and next to it stood a smoker’s lungs. It was just incredible to see this, physically, there, in front of you; how diseases and illness can affect your body.
I have never experienced anything like this in my life, this has inspired me in such a surreal and strange way. I am looking at everything so differently now. It is a feeling you cannot put down into words, you have to go and experience this for yourself.
Each section moved me in a way that nothing has before. I got so wrapped up in the exhibition, I lost track of time and location.
I highly recommend this to all of our students here at Birmingham City University; you will not be disappointed. It has been such an incredible experience and not to be missed! However, if you have a weak stomach, this may not be the one for you. Have a look online and read up about the exhibition before making your own decision. Personally, I would not miss this for the world, and I want to see more! I will be having a look at other exhibitions around the UK.
To book your tickets, go to: NEC Birmingham tickets
To finish off, I got the chance to meet the CEO – Tom Zaller and ask him a couple of questions:
Q1. What was your inspiration for the exhibition?
‘I wanted to dig deeper into life. I did not just want another anatomy and physiology piece that simply educates, I wanted something that inspired and was creative and brought in different aspects like, culture and spirituality, body, mind and soul. Giving life a true meaning. It is also fantastic for medical students / nursing students as you do not get this education at universities’ – Tom Zaller
‘I 100% agree, we do not get this on the degree. I find it amazing to see the human body in its entirety, there is only so much listening you can do, and I like visual experiences; – Claire Carmichael
Q2: What is your personal favourite piece?
‘Rhythm and the arteries and veins from the lower limb’ – Tom Zaller
‘This was my favourite section too! It was visually stunning and so beautiful to see’ – Claire Carmichael
‘The stars of the show are right here, they are unique’ – Tom Zaller.