Thursday, May 21, 2009
Gunther von Hagens
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 April 2009 18.43 BST
A Paris exhibition of preserved corpses has been ordered to close after a judge ruled it was an affront to the dignity of the human body. The court demanded the seizure of the human remains and discussions on their proper burial.
The exhibition, Our Body: À Corps Ouvert, features 17 Chinese bodies in various positions, some skinless or with muscles flayed. Their bodily fluids have been replaced with plastic to preserve them along the lines of methods invented by the controversial, fedora-wearing German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, whose London show Body Worlds caused outrage and drew large crowds in 2002. Von Hagens is not associated with the Paris exhibition.
Two French human rights group brought a complaint against the private organisers of the Paris show, which has been running since February. They called for its closure saying the company should produce evidence to show the bodies came from consenting individuals after concerns over a black market in Chinese prisoners' remains.
The Paris judge said legally, the proper place for corpses was "in a cemetery", and displaying corpses for commercial profit showed a lack of respect for the dead.
The exhibition, which had already attracted a total of 145,000 visitors in Lyon and Marseille, was expected to run until May and move to another Paris location in August. But it was today given 24 hours to close.
The exhibition's French organiser, Pascal Bernardin, has said the corpses were sourced through a foundation in Hong Kong and came from people who had donated their bodies to science. He said he would appeal against the ruling. The exhibition had been shown in various countries, including Germany and the US before reaching France.
Anatomical exhibitions of corpses preserved with plastic have provoked fascination and controversy in recent years. In 2004, von Hagens agreed to return seven corpses to China saying he was unable to prove they had not come from executed prisoners. His action followed an investigation in the German magazine der Spiegel