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Human body exhibit spurs outcry

Update: July, 06/2018 - 09:00
Real hand and leg specimens are exhibited in HCM City, drawing criticism from local audiences and professionals. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — Local audiences and professionals are questioning the moral and aesthetic values of a controversial exhibition showcasing real human body specimens in HCM City.

Head of the Department of Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibitions Vi Kiến Thành asked the HCM Department of Culture and Sports to review and report on the permit-granting process for the exhibition by July 10.

The exhibition, named “The Mystery of Human Body” and held from June 20 to December, showcases 131 real human body specimens preserved with plastic. They are divided into eight categories: muscular, skeletal, respiratory, digestive, circulatory, nervous, reproductive and fetal circulatory systems.

The organiser said the exhibition aimed at “educating people about the biological structure of human people and raising awareness of locals on the importance of a healthy lifestyle”.

The organiser will donate 1 per cent of the proceeds of the ticket sales to the Operation Smile organisation, which provides free surgery to children with hare-lips and cleft palates. An entrance ticket is VNĐ200,000 (US$8.7) for adults and VNĐ150,000 ($6.5) for children.

The exhibition, however, has drawn intense criticism.

“Opening the exhibition violates law and goes against morality. Donating the body for research purposes is much appreciated yet using the human body for commercial purposes must be criticised,” Nguyễn Trọng An, former deputy head of the department of child protection under the Ministry of Labour, wrote on his Facebook.

“Moreover, regarding Asian culture, there is no husband so heartless that he donates his pregnant wife’s body with his child in the womb for scientific or research purposes. There are no parents willing to donate their child’s body and let it exhibited that way,” he wrote.

Thành said the Department of Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibition refused to grant a permit for this exhibition to be held in Hà Nội early this year.

“The exhibition is not suitable with Vietnamese culture. The specimens exhibited lack humane values, some would even make many people feel uncomfortable,” said Thành.

Chung Won Ho, project director of the “Mystery of the Human Body” exhibition, said in a press statement: “Our mission is to bring the highest values in culture and science to the Vietnamese people. As in South Korea and many other countries, we hope that Vietnamese people will take on a healthy lifestyle for themselves and the community after visiting the exhibition. They will also better understand the structure and biological activity of the human body and see the harmful effects of bad habits. The exhibition will also motivate people to learn more about life sciences.”

Trần Khánh Chương, Chairman of the Việt Nam Association of Fine Arts, said, “I have never attended an exhibition like that. Using the human body for an exhibition is not humane. Art is about creativity and should not centre on horrific science that way. The exhibition must bring beautiful emotions and aesthetics for audiences. There might be many forms of expression but when it comes to artistic exhibitions, they must meet the requirement of humanity and aesthetics. I would never support that kind of inhumane exhibition.”

“We have to respect the human body and their soul. Oriental culture is different from western culture in the way that we respect the souls of dead people. Exhibiting bodies of dead people that way is definitely not suitable,” said Chương. — VNS

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