ANIMALS INSIDE OUT
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
September 22, 2013 through February 17, 2014
I’m quite certain that when Dr. Gunther von Hagens, creator of the ANIMALS INSIDE OUT exhibit at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, compared the exhibit to a “safari,” the intention was to apply the idea of a serene and possibly romantic observation to the exhibit, rather than the idea of a ruthless and vicious hunting expedition. Especially since the later intention would contradict the exhibit’s essential purpose, “to inspire a deeper appreciation and respect for the animal world.”
Unfortunately, as I walked the exhibit with the term “safari” in mind, I couldn’t help but associate the term “safari” with the hunting of animals. However, I don’t blame the producers of the exhibit for this. I blame author Ernest Hemingway and the tales from his three month safari. Though, that’s my own struggle to contend with, and in spite of this, several pieces screamed romantic observation, despite their unsettling and, at times, grotesque displays.
The giraffe, for example, drew a particular sense of awe and appreciation as it stood, carefully posed somewhere around 11 feet above me (at least). Certainly, I’ve seen my share of giraffes, some even within a yard or so at a zoo, yet I never comprehended just how tall and elegant these animals are until I stood less than a foot away from one.
The two-hump camel, as well, with its fully exposed belly sliced and flayed like raw steak, and splayed head offering a contradictory appeal – the belly a train wreck you can’t look away from, the head an animated feature you long to interact with.
Other items of particular interest included the many blood vessel configurations of various animals, including a dog. Bright red and wiry, the shapes of these animals told their stories while the stark adherence to one anatomical aspect created a peculiar point of reference. It was hard to move away from these presentations as some of them seemed almost electrified.
In addition, the various body parts of animals and humans, including hearts, livers, brains and circulatory systems provided an incredible display.
No doubt lovers of oddities will enjoy this exhibition, lovers of the morbid as well. Though, I think even those of you that are creeped out while reading this, those who can’t even imagine such a display and those who run from anything macabre- even you, should give this exhibit at least one try.
If you go and leave feeling that you were justified in your original opinion, then at least you’ve educated yourself and thereby deepened the basis of your opinion. But if you go and leave feeling differently than before, questioning or considering the complexities, the similarities and the fantastical elements of life – well, maybe you’ll find your own life has been enriched. This is how I felt when I left.
I was originally hesitant to give this exhibit a try. When I first heard of the original BODY WORLDS exhibit (composed of human presentations), I was appalled and revolted. My biggest concern was where the specimens originated from and whether they were sourced ethically as claimed.
In regards to the ANIMALS INSIDE OUT exhibit, the origin of the specimens was significant for me (a vegetarian), who understands that animals can’t give consent.
However, on both notes, I decided that unless (or until) one of the investigate channels exposes one of these productions, I might as well trust their statements on purpose and origination. I’m glad I did.
The body is truly a vessel, and the soul, well that’s up to you. Regardless, the specimens in the exhibit lacked life, but not allure. Whether you ultimately decide to go or pass, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure the exhibit has you thinking, and as the philosophical proposition by Rene Descartes says, “cogito ergo sum” (translation: “I think, therefore I am”).
Curated by Dr. Angelina Whalley, ANIMALS INSIDE OUT, a BODY WORLDS Production opens to the general public in Dallas on September 22, 2013. The traveling exhibit features around 100 plastinate and capillary animal specimens. Dallas is the second of only four stops for the exhibit in the United States.
Visitors should expect the experience to absorb approximately an hour of their day, longer if you find yourself particularly immersed. Various ticket options are available and can be purchased online at perotmusuem.org.
If you make it out, remember to come back here and leave a comment. Dallas Art News would love to hear your thoughts.