Anglican Samizdat

June 10, 2009

Body Language

Filed under: Art,The fall of the West — David Jenkins @ 5:31 pm
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When my parents died – my mother about 8 years after my father – looking on their lifeless bodies reminded me of a derelict house that had once been filled with a family:  furniture, toys, decorations may still be present as a reminder of happier times, but the living occupants have vacated the premises. So it is with a corpse; the person has gone. I appreciated the respect the funeral directors showed to my parents’ earthly remains since I saw it as a token of respect for the people that they once were; but I felt no particular need for indulging the contemporary obsession of prettifying the corpses for later inspection by all and sundry in an open coffin – as if to give the appearance of cheating death.

My father’s grave is in the UK and my mother’s ashes were scattered on lake Ontario where she used to live in Canada, so I can’t make occasional pilgrimages to their graves. Even if I could, I wouldn’t, since nothing of the real people I knew remains; I hope to meet them again in the resurrection when they will have new bodies.

So although I don’t think there is anything intrinsically sacred about a corpse, I am, nevertheless, all for burying or burning the dead and not doing this:

A controversial German anatomy artist is facing protests over his latest plastination exhibition after unveiling a work showing two corpses having sexual intercourse. Gunther von Hagens, whose latest exhibition, Cycle of Life, opens in Berlin tomorrow, has defended the exhibit saying that it combines the two greatest taboos of sex and death and is a lesson in biology, but is “not meant to be sexually stimulating”.

I think there are a number of things wrong with von Hagens’ contorted cadavers: it mocks the people who were once a part of the body; there is no conceivable reason for doing it other than to shock; it degrades the prurient spectator; as art, it is pretentious rubbish.

I am against censorship, but if someone burned or buried these abominations as an act of free artistic expression, I would have no regrets.


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