ChiChronicles

notes from a journey through Chicago's cultural landscape...

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

...this is not about me, this is about my city - a living document of Chicago's art's scene, a memoir of concerts I've been to & performances I've seen, a jaded scribe's small sampling of the many offerings of this vibrant cosmopolitan city that I'm lucky enough to call home. I work the city as the city works me, all of us connected in varying degrees, here i pay tribute to our evolving soundtrack, I plug praiseworthy endeavors & try to give a little back... Together with my peers we paint this crossroads with every shade we can find, in your mediums & mine, i run with deep house deviants & wrinkled blues cats, youngun' b-boy crews & quirky circus brats, snobby eclectic DJs & electric painters laboring on projected displays, film makers armed with mini-DVs & picky chefs sculpting tricky masterpieces out of vegan grease... i kick it with slam poets & theater geeks, powerbook producers & fashionista freaks, photoshop fellowships & choreographer hips, while jazz cats blow digital epics through pursed bebop lips... i'm at the nexus of the next wave of Chicago sound - this is where i share the stories of all the beauty I've found...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Body Worlds @ the Museum of Science & Industry

Spent Saturday afternoon on the South Side @ the Museum of Science & Industry. My parents were in town for the weekend & they wanted to check out the notorious exhibit "Body Worlds", which has garnered a lot of national attention for featuring real cadavers that have been treated with plastics in order to showcase in gory and miraculous detail all the intricate workings of the human body. It's an overwhelming exhibit destined to have a powerful impact on the body awareness of everyone who sees it. It's impossible to be indifferent to the sight of corpses stripped of their skin & tissues to reveal the underlying structures of the various systems comprising the complete human form. What could be horrific and in shockingly bad taste is instead a true tribute to the objectivity of scientific inquiry, in that the exhibit feels like a journey towards a greater understanding of the complexity of the machines our consciousness operates. That said, there are plenty of disconcerting sights that will leave visitors queasy, and a pervasive air looming over the whole wing that calls to mind the necrophiliac element coloring all the endeavors of Mary Shelley's Dr.Frankenstein. Who pays to see bodies that have been ripped apart and manipulated? Or, more disturbingly, who dedicates the time to perform such laborious processes on dead matter? I left the exhibit questioning my convictions & with a renewed committment to eat better, lift more weights, and kick-start my lapsed martial arts regimen. Any display that has such a positive effect on its viewers is praiseworthy, no matter how warped its basis...
Before walking through the exhibit, we bought tickets to see the IMAX film "The Human Body" which accompanies the cadavers and definitely eases an audience into appreciating the nuances of what goes down beneath our skins. The film was fantastically shot, and opened with a sequence of a camera rolling over what looks like a textured desert landscape of shapely dunes, only to pull back to reveal that the viewer is in fact seeing is a torso, with a great gaping chasm in the middle that's actually a belly button. The sight of a belly button the size of a four-story building is well-worth the prices of admission alone, but the film continues over its course to offer stunning glimpses of the processes occuring within the body. From uncomfortable but humorous images ranging from the creation of a zit and the production of bile, to a series of breathtaking shots of the muscular and skeletal systems in action, the film is a fantastic exploration of the machinery comprising "the Human Body." Funded by the BBC, this is a movie far superior to that atrocity "the Miracle of Life" i was forced to watch in middle school sex ed. My personal favorite scene was watching newborn infants the size of 2 story buildings swimming with wide open innocent eyes through water - it turns out that there's a strange 6 month phenomenon whereby newborns do not attempt to breath when submerged, as their lungs block off the fluids and channel the water directly to their stomachs. This fact led to the film's most memorable sequence, in which a slew of babies adoringly paddled across the screen in scenes reminiscent of the album cover to Nirvana's "Nevermind". It was a great visual, and a really fascinating fact to learn about... How our bodies transform over time is nothing short of shapeshifting...
I highly recommend folks to check this exhibit out before it leaves. It will totally alter the way you see yourself and others. Aside from the cross-sections of obese people, the plasticized example of a man with a hernia around his genitals, the blood vessel systems that resembled the texture of cotton candy, and the spactacle of raw musculature adorning athletes in motion, my personal highlight was not even a cadaver. Directly behind me in line was a couple and their 6 year-old daughter, who after seeing the very first body began to whine and pout rather loudly that she wanted to home. "Please Mom, i don't want to see anymore, let's go, please!" This continued for the rest of the exhibit, accompanied by the girl's comically frightened expression as she stared at the various bodies laid out like nightmare zombies stripped of their bones, organs, and cut open in cross-sections. The look on her face throughout kept me cynically amused throughout, even though it was apparent she'd be having nightmares soon...Even a 6-year old doesn't necessarily want to understand... Life isn't very romantic when you strip away the mysterious cloak of skin to revel rusted levers, broken springs, and dirty gears... It's so much more peaceful to just trust the dreamsequence in our minds and divorce our consciousness from the messy earthbound nature of our bodies... But the parts make the whole, each element plays a perfectly callibrated role, and no matter how cerebral our journeys may seem, our thoughts are just the ghosts lurking throughout the machine...

Related Links:
http://www.msichicago.org/bodyworlds/index.html

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