Last night Channel 4 broadcast a documentary showing the creation of Dr Gunther Van Hagens’ latest work, entitled “Jesus”.
The programme followed the process of “plasticanation” where a corpse is drained of all fluid. Then a plastic is pumped in to the veins and allowed to harden. Once it has hardened then the outer, fleshy, part is corroded and the vascular system remains. A similar process was followed with the bones. The programme also delved into Van Hagens’ motives and his battle with Parkinson’s. It was an interesting look at a man I had always seen as, basically, creepy.
He claims that this is his contribution to the long history of Art depicting the Passion. Whether or not this is actually Art is open to interpretation. Personally, I can see it from two sides.
Firstly, it is a man brought up in the Christian tradition confronting his own mortality by identifying with the suffering of another. Whether or not that “other” is divine does not matter. In showing the biology of the Crucifixion Van Hagens’ is highlighting the suffering.
Secondly, it is a calculated attempt to create controversy by a staunch atheist. By chosing an obvious target and attempting to present it to the pope, he is creating interest in his BodyWorks show. Where, probably, the crucifixion will be on display. Also, the timing of the show – on Easter Sunday – was obvious and calculated. Still, was interesting enough and thought-provoking.