You call THIS art?! The Plastination Technique

Nudity is now a generally accepted subject matter in art, but German man, Gunther von Hagens,  takes this one step further by stripping down real human bodies to beyond their skin, into muscles and beyond…

Gunther von Hagens developed and patented the controversial plastination technique, in which water and fat in bodies are replaced by plastics, therefore preserving the body and protecting it from the decaying process. He exhibits bodies preserved in this way around the world.

In 2002, Hagens came to the UK to perform a public autopsy – the first since just before the notoriously gruesome Victorian period in 1832. Though he received a personal letter from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Anatomy advising him that he would be breaking the law by doing so, he went ahead and it was broadcast on Channel 4 (that doesn’t sound at all like something they would show…) OFCOM received 130 complaints – not bad considering Jeremy Clarkson racked up 31,000 to the BBC after one particular comment.

Picking the weirdest of Hagens work is pretty difficult because there is just so much choice! He’s plastinated a heavily pregnant woman, whereby her unborn child is exposed via a slash straight down her stomach, animals such as camels and elephants, and exhibited a plastinated man who is gazing proudly at his entire skin in one hand, in the way someone who had just received an award would at a trophy. But perhaps his most controversial was that of Easter Sunday 2012 where he became entangled with religion, attempting to emulate Jesus’ crucifixion.


Whilst some people feel he is reminiscent of Leatherface, many people remain great fans of his work, claiming that he shows that the body really is a work of art. But is pouring plastic into bodies art, or just plain gruesome?

Zoe Ashton

Images: Paul Stevenson

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