‘Body Worlds: Pulse’ at Discovery Times Square
A man and woman, stripped of skin, are balanced in a balletic embrace, but their skulls and thoracic and abdominal cavities are open from behind and their spines are pulled backward, with organs and muscles attached.
A woman stands erect, also skinless, a slightly melancholy expression emerging from her facial musculature, her belly sliced vertically so we can see her liver and intestines, along with a 5-month-old fetus in her womb.
Another flayed body welcomes us into this new exhibition, “Body Worlds: Pulse” at Discovery Times Square, holding aloft, with pride, the complete coat of skin that has been removed from his body.
These are not models (or allusions to “The Silence of the Lambs”) but actual people who, since 1983, have donated their bodies for such preservation and display. More than 13,200 of the living made such promises; 1,254 of them are deceased, and some of them (with organs from other sources) appear among the 200 specimens displayed here.
You might assume that sliced and pulled-apart human cadavers, preserved in all the freshness of death by infusions of plastics and resin, no longer have the power to shock or amaze. After all, since the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens invented the process he calls plastination in 1977, then started the donation program with his Institute of Plastination, and finally began mounting specimens in “Body Worlds” exhibitions in 1995, some 36 million people have seen the shows in nearly two dozen countries in 11 different incarnations. (This one, “Pulse,” was designed for New York.) A competitor arose, Premier Exhibitions, and opened a series of successful exhibitions in the United States (including one that has been closed at the South Street Seaport since Hurricane Sandy.