As comprehensive as the above writeup may be, it omits one important detail about why self-lamination
may not be the way to go.
A popular recent art exhibit of plastinated bodies - namely, corpses that have been drained of bodily fluids, injected with plastic, and flayed to reveal the inner workings of the human body - was found to be leaking mysterious fluids.
Yep, the laminated corpses had sprung a not-so-aesthetically-pleasing leak.
The exhibitor was forced to deal not only with pointed questions about exactly where the corpses had come from, but also about the health hazards that might stem from leaky corpses.
There has been a lot of recent debate about the origin of the corpses on display in the exhibition called "The Universe Within". Once fascinated viewers managed to get past the shock and awe of seeing the very meat and gristle of the human body, several said viewers began questioning exactly where the corpses came from.
Bullet holes discovered in the skulls of two of the plastinated corpses have led to extensive investigation into the matter of where exactly the corpses originated. Much speculation and pitched debate has centered around the fact that the corpses could possibly be the bodies of executed Chinese prisoners. Gunther von Hagens, the "artist" of the exhibit, vehemently denies this, but the controversy rages on. Because of the lack of meticulously kept records and the don't ask - don't tell nature of the current Chinese government, no one can be sure whose bodies are on display for the amusement of the Western public.
With regard to the origin of the plastinated corpses, an anonymous docent from the San Francisco museum where the bodies were on display had this to say:
Where the bodies came from in terms of donors, they don't tell us anything. They tell us, 'Don't talk about that.'"
Bullet holes. Chinese bodies. You do the math.
Somehow I don't think most people have a burning desire to be murdered by a totalitarian regime, have their body sold to the highest bidder, and then put on display for the perusal of random people. It's just a hunch I have.
I could be wrong.
At any rate, the leakage itself - characterized by health official Rajiv Bhatia as "Fluid...beading on the surface of some tissues, a possible sign that the bodies were not properly processed..." - has not so far shown to contain "any pathogenic organisms." It's whispered among docents and curators that the bodies have to be "sponged off" in the mornings before the exhibits open to the public.
Contoversy aside...by all accounts, however leaky the bodies and mystifying their heritage may be, the exhibit of "laminated people" is utterly compelling.
Michael Sappol, a historian at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., and the author of "A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth Century America," speculated to a Salon.com contributer that
"You're not wrong to be amazed, to feel, This is my body. And you're not wrong to look at a dead body and think, This is death"...we live in a sea of body images that are constantly trying to trump each other in terms of novelty or beauty. Because we can't directly see into our own interior, there could be nothing more novel." Yet we also live in a culture intent on hiding death; and these exhibits flaunt it. "You're seeing yourself, but you're also seeing a monster at the same time."
Pehaps "self-lamination" is impractical. Perhaps it is leaky. It may even be shady as hell. But it is most certainly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, fascinating.
Like a great pair of stiletto heels, plastination may be the ultimate (if slightly uncomfortable) way to get attention...even in the afterlife.