25th Feb, 2020

It’s not comfortable and at times it’s unnerving, but it is always compelling

THE sight of a dead body may be somewhat commonplace to those of us who watch Silent Witness, or whose job may bring them into contact with the departed, but to see 20 such sights in one go is, it has to be said, a rarity.

The world-renowned exhibition Real Bodies, seen by millions worldwide, features genuine anatomical human specimens and provides fascinating insights into the wonders of the human body.

It’s currently on display at the NEC and Matthew Salisbury took the opportunity to get beneath the skin of a show which has already enthralled millions worldwide.

Many people will have spent time marvelling at how clever their smartphone is, how fast and full of tricks it is and how much it can do. Far fewer of us would ever pause to realise that the fingers working the phone’s buttons are equally versatile and part of a mechanism infinitely more impressive and surprising.

As an exhibition Real Bodies takes us closer to seeing the full story of how miraculous the human body is. Ranged over a succession of themed galleries, a comprehensive collection of exhibits tells the inner workings of the very people staring into the glass cases.

It’s a story told very well in many scientific museum or on a multitude of television documentaries.

But what sets this show apart from the rest is that almost all the exhibits are real. Real human bodies. And it’s that constant background realisation that what we are looking at is ourselves that gives this show a real jolt factor.

Painstakingly dissected, dried, cleaned and presented, most of the specimens look anything but the gory, grim body parts it’s easy to assume they might be. This is an exhibition as much about the craft of the human body and the artistry of those who have laboured to put it on display. There are parts of our intricate and interlinked bits which look positively beautiful when presented like this. And plenty of other bits which don’t.

Bones exposed, muscles stretched out, organs isolated and opened to view; it’s all on show here. We see the brain in all its intricate glory and the finer workings of all the internal parts to which we owe our lives but whose exact structure and appearance we’d rather keep hidden from view.

That said, the squeamish have little to fear from what’s displayed here. If anything, it’s the nagging reminder that these were real people before fate ended their lively years and the thirst for scientific knowledge handed them a second life, which spooks the viewer. It’s not comfortable and at times it’s unnerving, but it is always compelling and fascinating.

Real Bodies The Exhibition is a blockbuster production created by Imagine Exhibitions, a global pioneer in worldwide traveling entertainment.

“While the exhibition moves through the anatomical systems of the human body, it also looks far beyond the physical aspects,” said President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions Tom Zaller.

“It explores the symbolic and cultural significance that bodily systems – such as the nervous system and circulatory system – have had from the beginning of time, and questions why we do what we do and how we do it.

“Whether or not a visitor is spiritual, they’ll emerge from Real Bodies The Exhibition with a sense of greater connection —a connection to the whole of humanity.”

Richard Mann, NEC group marketing development director, said: “We are very excited to be hosting Real Bodies The Exhibition which gives visitors a fascinating look at the fragility and beauty of the human body like they have never seen before.

“By hosting Real Bodies The Exhibition for the next three months, we are giving visitors plenty of time to catch what we think will be the must-see event in Birmingham his summer.”

Real Bodies The Exhibition is at the NEC until Sunday, August 19, 2018. Visit the NEC online to find out full details at http://www.thenec.co.uk/whats-on/real-bodies/

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