“Bodies” in Blue City, Warsaw



Ludzkie ciało – fascynujące doświadczenie!

This “exhibition” has been touring the world and has finally arrived in Poland. If you want to, you can see it at the Blue City shopping mall in Warsaw until the 19th June. That is of course assuming it has not been closed down before then.

According to this Reuters article, Polish prosecutors are now checking to make sure all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed before the 13 corpses (of dubious origin?) arrived in Warsaw.

“We are investigating this case to check whether the corpses were not desecrated and whether all procedures needed to mount such an exhibition in Poland were carried out,” a spokesman for the Warsaw prosecutors’ office, Mateusz Martyniuk.

It’s hard to think that there could possibly be any procedures laid down for “exhibiting 13 corpses in a shopping centre” but there you go, the law is a strange machine.

Some people are, I think quite naturally, very concerned:

“Thirteen dead people appear out of the blue in the centre of Warsaw. It provokes the deepest astonishment, amazement and suspicion,” said Deputy General Sanitary Inspector for Poland, Jan Orgelbrand. He invoked the specter of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, where the remains of murdered Jews were used in the manufacture of various products. “The human being is sacred… A ‘beautiful’ lamp made of human skin in Auschwitz is the riposte to the question of where the human being ends and where art begins,” he said.

I don’t consider myself a prude but I have to say I find myself leaning in the direction of not liking this exhibition. Such an intense interest in the inner workings of the human body is something that should remain in the realm of science and scientific advancement, where it has comfortably been for many centuries. I can accept Leonardo da Vinci bringing dissection and art together via his anatomical works because they were done at a time when such investigation was needed and valuable.


This exhibition adds nothing whatsoever to our understanding of the human body from either a scientific or artistic viewpoint. It is simply an exercise in macabre sensationalism, pulling on themes of Frankenstein, Hannibal Lecter and Joseph Mengele to name but three real or imaginary warped minds.

I know Blue City is a mess of a place that needs all the help it can get to get customers through the door, but please, whatever next! I’m sure the “artist” will explain how he has the right to express himself and give lengthy reasoning of why this is not a sick exhibition but in my opinion this is nothing more than a way to get rich by doing something shocking, one that unfortunately involves ghastly operations on dead people. We’ve closed down circus acts showing bearded ladies and more exotic deformed people and yet we allow this exhibition to tour the world? Can’t say it makes much sense to me so for once I’m with the prosecutors and San Epid. Close it down. Let Poland be the first country that stands up against this sensationalist bullcrap – send it back to LA where it belongs!


27 thoughts on ““Bodies” in Blue City, Warsaw

  1. stefonic says:

    Jan Orgelbrand is a typical example of what is wrong with Poland with it’s endless miles of red tape. These people exsist to cuase misery and endless back logs of red tape with thier endless investigations and opinions that have perpetuated delays to real progress since the Russians left in 1989. Like the investigation of whether “Lech” was a communist spy this also is just another ludicrous investigation from yet another self invovled idiot of a public official.
    This is a fasinating work of science, no one is forcing you to go see it, and those that would like to see it, need first to be “protected” by that idiot Jan Orgelbrand. In typical post communist Polish red tape fashion.

  2. Mark says:

    I went to see this exhibition in Madrid last summer. It was fascinating and really well done, however, after doing some research on how the bodies were procured, I found this report from an American investigative news show:

    The company that puts on this particular exhibition has faced accusations that some of the bodies displayed are actually executed prisoners from China.

  3. stefonic says:

    It’s funny to me how people that do not want to see the bodies out of respect for the dead, would like to extend that right to include preventing those that do want to see the exhibit.
    And I’m willing to bet if those same people were in need of a kidney or eye transplant, they would have no problem having one scooped up from a dead car accident body. And suddenly it’s different now that a body is needed for some other purpose other than human education. Suddenly it matters not from where they came, or how they died.
    No one seems overly concerned with how the mummys of Egypt died, is that different too?

  4. scatts says:

    stefonic, is this exhibition supposed to be educational?

  5. Phlojd Katzenjammer says:

    Given that zombies of all kinds typically flock to shopping malls, I see no reason that actual corpses should be banned, especially given the common and ongoing precedent.

  6. scatts says:

    Especially in Blue City. Might be hard to tell the exhibits from the shoppers! :-)

  7. stefonic says:

    It could be educational, or it could be entertainment, I think that depends on the person that chooses to go and see it. Those that are offended should refrain from seeing it in the same way that I choose not to go and see certain movies. I just stay home and choose not to see it. I would be a horses ass to try and prevent the whole country of Poland from seeing it. And a horses ass unfortunatley has the power stop me in Poland apparentley.

  8. scatts says:

    Not if you’re fast enough! Probably not at all to be fair. I’d be surprised if they close the thing down.

  9. Pawel says:

    I saw a documentary done by some US tv station (abc, nbc, or something pike that) which researched where do these bodies actually come from. It was claimed by the organizers that people have voluntarily donated their own bodies. Journalists discovered they actually come from China, and the exact way of how bodies were obtained is not possible to be determined. There were some clues, that these are bodies of prisoners-maybe also political prisoners. To have this exhibition now in Poland, a freedom loving country, is disturbing.

  10. stefonic says:

    Paweł ,
    From what country would the bodies need to come from so that you would not be disturbed as a citizen of a freedom loving country?

    Russia? Canada? perhaps Germany :)

  11. Pawel says:

    stephonic, “freedom loving country” was a pun. Google it and see who uses it

  12. adthelad says:

    My first instincts with regard to an exhibition of preserved human anatomy is that it would be fascinating and I would be more than willing to go and see these exhibits.
    However having read the opinions so far I must admit that my conscience is more than a little disturbed. I would expect any exhibitor of human bodies or human body parts to have a full and meticulous record for the human remains and all permissions from the previous owners (or their relatives).
    Just as it would be outrageous to have the remains of Holcaust victims used for sensational profiteering, however fascinating and unoffensive to some, the same would in my opinion apply to political prisoners from any country guilty of the most heinous abuses of human beings. If these cadavers are in fact prisoners from China the excuse ‘if you don’t want to see it don’t stop others’ would not only be pathetic or downright insulting but also completely immoral.
    I’m very pleased to hear that the authorities want to assure themselves that all proper procedures have been followed and that innocent victims whose permission has not been sought are not being additionally abused for personal gain.

  13. stefonic says:

    My God, are we really niave enough to believe that the Chinese government is in need of cash and in the business of selling the bodies of it’s political prisoners to American business men?

    That would indeed be the headline of the century. Or is it just a bunch of crap thrown out there to get people to object to the display.

    Interesting that these bodies have been on display for two years, but no one even started to object until the media reported that a profit was being earned.

  14. Cristóbal says:

    We had that exhibition last year in Chile, and a MP tried to boycott it because of what’s been mentioned here about Chinese prisioners (there’s even one -an MP who loves to lick Chávez’s boots- who claimed that those bodies came from prisoners back from Pinochet’s dictatorship).

    I thought it was going to be morbid, but not at all. However, there was a doctor nearby who said that the “veins” on the exhibition were fake (and argued with one of the people in charge, until they admitted they were fake).

  15. Chris says:

    I missed this exhibit when it was here recently and could kick myself in the pants. Heard it is amzing.

  16. Pawel says:

    stefonic, you are killing me LOL
    A country of one billion people has one consistent government in your opinion? One that is not corrupt? Whose members don’t engage in barely legal operations for profit? Why do you think government sells it anyway? Chinese businessmen sell it to American businessmen maybe?

    In the film they went with camera on the sight in china, where the bodies are handled. They are being brought by some medicine professor from local medical school. And bodies that arrive at this medical school come from Chinese prisons (some sentenced to death, but how can you know ok which grounds?, and some – in such country may as well be slaughtered by secret services).
    They could have even been killed to be sold to this exhibition. That’s how money works on people. It doesn’t have to be an authoritarian regime. In Poland there was this scandal when Emergency killed people to have money from funeral company (“łowcy skór”).

    So I think having this exhibition in Poland, provided these accusations are true, is a disgrace and should never happen. This exhibition should be then confiscated and people burried.

  17. Pawel says:

    PS. This German guy Von Hagen does something similar-but with bodies whose owners voluntarily consented during their life. For which there are all nececcary credible documents. In such case I have no objections. It’s then the same as with any body donated to science.

  18. Pioro-Boncza says:

    First: This exhibit is edutainment and nothing more

    Second: This Polish Administrator is an ideal posterchild of what is wrong with the system

    Third: How lame that the exhibit is in Blue City and not a proper venue. This just cheapens the exhibit even further. Did you know Blue City was originally intended to be a Science and Education Museum/Center? But we can clearly see where the priorities lie of Polish Investors.

    Fourth: Stop Polandian from pulling me away from my work with these fun articles I would just love to jump further in to ;^)

  19. adthelad says:

    Mark – thanks for the you tube link – most informative although also highlights some weak investigative journalism. You don’t telegraph your questions as you’ll only get the pat answers. Importing the cadavers into the US under the title of ‘models’ is deliberate avoidance of the law – this is 100% clear.
    Thanks Paw for your response also – nice to see people with a head on their shoulders (no pun intended).

  20. wu says:

    The ehibition itself is also controversial for me too…. however – the times have changed many people still know very littlle about how amazing our body is – both outside and inside.

  21. Sylwia says:

    I think that the less is said about exhibitions like that the better.

    However, I don’t agree with the assumption that a free country means that one can do there anything. Certainly there are many things one is not allowed to do, because it’s against the worldview of the majority. It happens that in Poland, with its long tradition of mourning, human body is sacred, and so I can understand how disgusting the mere idea of making it such a sensation is to many. One can take a plane and go to a country where people’s views differ to see such an exhibition. That means we’re free to do whatever we like, but not necessarily we’re free to do it here. Globalisation isn’t yet so far advanced that one couldn’t tell the difference between one country and another.

    The idea of Von Hagen’s factory in Poland was opposed exactly on the basis of people’s feelings about it. It’s not just because of the memory of Holocaust, although it is an important factor, but also because of how people think of the dead in general. Well, we don’t have zombies here, we don’t have Polish Vampire fiction either, and there are reasons for that. Similarly, we don’t have to have certain exhibitions just because they are elsewhere. If we can understand that a newspaper shouldn’t publish caricatures of Mohamed because it offences someone else’s feelings, we shouldn’t offend our own either.

  22. stefonic says:

    Yes Paweł we all know how fair, accurate, and balanced reporters for profit can be. After all, they get paid to “shock” the public without one ducument of proof so far I might add.

    And Sylwia if you think the entire country of Poland thinks as one opinion I hope you never take up government office like Jan Orgelbrand’s. That my dear is called communisim, and is a problem for Poland since 1989 with regards to real change. And by the way The Polish magazines I read love to offend people. Have you ever read ANGORA or NIE ? These prople are Polish and don’t seem to fall into your idea of what a Polish citizen feels and thinks.

  23. Sylwia says:

    Well, Stefonic, one of the things you’re certainly not allowed is calling me your dear.

    I definitely don’t think that everyone in Poland is of one opinion, but I’m afraid that you can’t tell the difference between communism and democracy. I said:

    Certainly there are many things one is not allowed to do, because it’s against the worldview of the majority.

    And that’s democracy.

    Communism was when one wasn’t allowed to do things that were against the views of minority – guys like the founder of your favourite NIE.

  24. Hugo says:

    I would donate my body for such an art exposition, I’m a registered organ donor and would not mind if that included art, when I’m dead I’m gone and my body will not resurrect or complain about abuse. An I hope my relatives will also not hold on to that bag of flesh and bones but remember me.
    It is educational in the same way the Mona Lisa is educational but more, it shows us humans what we are, flesh and bones, it is humbling but also uplifting that even without skin we can be beautiful.
    There is nothing wrong with the exposition and I’m sure it would be harder to get bodies from China or another country than just ask for volunteers or apply for donor bodies like used by medical students (if you knew what some of them do with the bodies that are donated you wouldn’t object to this …), I don’t think the bodies came from a “wrong” source.

  25. wu says:

    “in Poland (…) human body is sacred”

    errr… no. Not really. It is a really wierd thing, that the body becomes sanctified after its owner is dead. Because when the human is still living, the body is often viewed as something dirty and sinful.
    I’m an artist and because studying body is one of the very important topics in our studies (both its stucture and regards on it) I can say that such approach is not limited to Poland and is – to be honest – quite baffling.
    Although I understand that it might shock or confuse people, I have to disagree with labeling such expositions as “disgusting”. As I said before – human body is beautiful both inside and outside and this is actually a way of showing it’s internal beauty in a form aesthetic enough for many people to be able to view it (as I dubt that even 5% of the audience would like to go e.g. to dissecting-room and see how a bunch of doctors cuts some fresh bodies… I wouldn’t, despite my liking for studying anatomy :\).

    “we don’t have Polish Vampire fiction either”

    Ahem…. vampires are creatures from Slavic mythology! (so are e.g. werewolves). We had a lot of ‘dead’ unnatural beings and Polish people believed in their existence (up to XIX century and some up until today).

    “when I’m dead I’m gone and my body will not resurrect or complain about abuse”

    pardon the bad joke, but I think your body (if prepared to such exhibition) would be in a much better stage than those in the ground :) If the ressurection occured by some accident, you’d be prettier than those worm-eaten ground-dwellers.

    And Sylvia again – the democracy doesn’t just mean that the majority decides what to do. It also meany that minorities also have the voice and are not persecuted for their views – of course as long as those views aren’t a threat to others. I wouldn’t call this exhibition a threat either for people or their morals.

  26. Sylwia says:

    It has nothing to do with body being dirty or whatever, only with the way people believed the body must be treated for the soul to be able to leave it. Vampires were exactly an effect of profanation of the body, and the mourning rites come from pagan times when body wasn’t sinful anyway.

    “Ahem…. vampires are creatures from Slavic mythology! (so are e.g. werewolves). We had a lot of ‘dead’ unnatural beings and Polish people believed in their existence (up to XIX century and some up until today).”

    Which is not Vampire fiction, a genre in Western literature. How many Polish “Draculas” have you read?

    Yes, democracy means that although the rights of minorities should be respected, they cannot become a threat to the rights of the majority. I didn’t mean a physical or moral threat, only an abuse of the majority’s beliefs.

  27. wu says:

    “It has nothing to do with body being dirty or whatever, only the way people believed the body must be treated for the soul to be able to leave it”

    Which means treating it as sanctified (either by sacraments and the view on the body as a home for soul) after the death, so it isn’t that far from what I’ve been saying.

    Of course, the whole controversy can be bringed to the clash with the belief that person after death should be buried.
    But, as many things in our religion, this might be dealt our symbolically. I wouldn’t be surprised if some donors had a very strong faith and every ritual they believe was necessary, has been conducted.

    And our pagan mouning rites circled around cremation, so yes – our old religion had some very special ways to treat dead bodies.
    Cremation’s been however, ousted by catholic practices (the Church has an interesting story of accepting it), although many people today choose cremation.
    One of the biggest concerns of the Church over cremation was that… well… it doesn’t leave much for God to ressurect. Since bodies on Body Worlds are beautifully preserved, I don’t think it’s a problem here.

    And “wąpierz” wasn’t a creature ‘born’ only from profanating a dead body: the Slavs believed that a vampire is someone, who’s been cursed (while still living), died a sudden death, was left-handed or had an unibrow (!)….

    “Which is not Vampire fiction, a genre in Western literature. How many Polish “Draculas” have you read?”

    “Dracula” was – forst and foremost – an adventure story. What’s wrong with that? And “Dracula” isn’t “Blade” or “From Dusk Till Dawn”, although it’s kind of their foundation… And I wouldn’t compare bodies on Von Hagen’s exhibition as ‘vampiric’ or ‘zombie-like’.

    And unnatural beings, often bloody events, love and hate, horror and romance… there’s a lot of it in the literature from Romantic period, which is – of course – a period from which vampire literature comes from.
    As political and idealistic our literature was in that time, there are no vampires (or those of ‘standard’ kind), but there are certainly a lot of “undead” or “unnatural” walking around.

    “I didn’t mean a physical or moral threat, only an abuse of the majority’s beliefs.”

    It might actually offend less people that you believe it offends….

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