Kerstin Mey considers how, although death and its concomitant connotations – disease and demise – have been removed from the public gaze in the West, this has not reduced our fascination with these subjects. Nor has it removed their exploration through various forms of mediatized culture, including graphic video games, films and the visual arts. She examines the mass appeal of the anatomist Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds, which was a worldwide touring exhibition between 1995 and 2011 that focused on the display of preserved corpses and body fragments. The scientific process of Plastination was employed to preserve the body tissue and reveal inner anatomical structures which gave the specimens a hyperreal colouration, somewhat departing from the visceral ghastliness expected of bodily parts but in other ways imparting the starkness of our grim destinies, especially given the lifelike poses of the corpses. Mey’s essay details the different aspects of von Hagen’s controversial but influential work and also examines the work of other artists who are engaged in similar subject matter, such as Joel-Peter Witkin, the art group AES + F and Andres Serrano’s morgue series.
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