08/08/2006 08:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A "Body Worlds" Show? What Does This Say About the Fate of Global Civilization?

Because this ain't just in the USA, at least according to a NYTimes piece of today, front page, 8/8/06--which I can't seem to link to...

But I don't believe what I'm reading.

I've seen a few ads for one of these shows posted around in NYC. I could hardly bear to look at the ads, let alone go to the show, but I kind of slid over it, figuring it was one more minor horror in the great flux of horrors we live in these days.

Now I find out this show is a huge world-wide phenomenon. All I can think is that this is yet more evidence of a desperate need that people feel to engage with the real--yet safely, in a package, in a mediated way. If that's right, than this little quote from my book about representations of transgressive sex, should apply in this case too:

"Which accounts for the fact that we have so many public exhibitions of sex that aspire to be transgressive. But--the dialectic of mediation again--in reaching for the real in that way, they succeed only in extending the reach of the virtual."

And maybe that's right. But I am losing confidence in that analysis. Maybe I'm just in shock and I'll get over it. But this is SO awful. I imagine people filing into the South Street Seaport to look at this stuff (that's the NYC show)--and in the other places too.

Why are they doing this?

You gotta see the picture of Gunther von Hagens (this is not a joke name) who is one of the impresarios of these shows. His photo sums it up--but, weirdly, I am suddenly realizing, he is so perfect, that it makes me wonder if he isn't pulling off some monumental Dada prank.

He looks a postmodern Bela Lugosi.

Could someone explain this phenomenon for me? I am lost...