Bodies - The Exhibition

VAM Design Center
, 3300ft - 3900 ft, until 31st December
Pest Centre, VI, Deak F. ter
(M 1,2,3) 4 min

So, it looks like Budapest may have one of the ‘bad’ bodies exhibitions. Not that the exhibition is bad - I haven’t been - but the bodies themselves could be bad. Or not. I don’t know. Are they? Maybe.

Back home in Manchester over the summer, I saw a huge amount of advertising for another display of cadavers - Dr von Hagen‘s Bodyworlds 4. Same, but different. My curiosity was tickled and I decided to head over to Wikipedia the other day for a bit of grave digging.

It turned out that Premier Exhibition's Bodies, currently showing at VAM design on Kiraly (one of 10 venues globally), is not the original. It debuted in 2005, ten years after von Hagen's Bodyworlds first opened, and the good doctor has sued Premier in the past. Apparently, people get confused as to which exhibition is which. Fancy that!

Unsurprisingly, both shows have generated their fair share of controversy. Germaine Greer claimed she would no more go to an exhibition of dead bodies than she would eat a live one, while the Catholic Church feel these displays are inconsistent with the idea of reverence towards the human body. People have taken issue with gender stereotyping within the exhibits, and there’s even a virtual picket line/protest which currently has 277 people (not) standing in it.

Comments there make for interesting reading - ‘I was very glad to find a way to protest this neo-Nazi exhibit’ writes Jean D’Ascenzo of New Jersey. Palo Paley looks like she was so furious she decided to text in her cryptic contribution - ‘will u make this exhibition with the flesh of ur child??,‘ while Timothy Ingram opts for a rather more succinct ’Evil.’

Setting religious objections or comparisons to a travelling freakshow aside, there is a more legitimitate concern relating to the Budapest exhibition - and that is where exactly Premier's cadavers come from. Von Hagen’s bodies are obtained via a donation program, but Premier are not quite as transparent. They say corpses are received from the Chinese government. However, any moral concerns about that are not helped by the ghoulish disclaimer on one of Premier's official sites...


‘This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons‘.


That appeared in May, after an investigation into all this led by the New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who went on in a concluding statement to say...


'The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China. Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals. Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner.

This settlement in New York resulted in Premier, from May 2008 on, being required to provide written documentation of who the subjects are, as well as proof that they consented to be part of this exhibition. But as far as I can tell... that's only in New York!

So there you have it. A couple of major, quite similar corpse exhibitions touring the planet - one of them is fine, if you like that sort of thing, and the other seems a good deal shadier, with a remarkably cavalier attitude towards human rights...

...and we get that one. Interesting times we're living in though.

Andy T.



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