In her essay “Shipwreck,” Cat Bohannon argues that displaying bodies of dead humans can be “art”, but this “art” may be difficult to separate from “science.” The text is filled with the author’s research, interviews and her personal reasoning. While observing the process of human dissection and preservation (known as “plastination”), Bohannon has a difficult time understanding this type of art making. For the author, plastination is a complicated and sometimes disturbing process. But she also seems to conclude that plastination is more than just “creative anatomy” (Bohannon 62), and is actually a form of expression just like painting or sculpture.
Plastination is a technique that challenges the boundary between science and art. Bohannon asks, “Can a dead human body be a piece of art ‘about’ the human body?” (59). The author at first seems doubtful that this is art, but then answers her own question with observations an artist might make. In the plastination factory, she states it reminds her of descriptions she’d read of “Warhol’s ‘factory,’” but is troubled that Dr. von Hagens’ “‘materials’ were once living, breathing people” (Bohannon 61). She remarks that the “muscle has strings of viscous pink connecting it to the table,” but she “can’t help but think of the feet of dancers, incredibly strong, but hopelessly mangled” (Bohannon 63). While observing a vat of liquid, the author realizes that there is a corpse in the liquid, but the liquid is “candy pink, like cheap bubblegum, Pepto-Bismol, Pokemon pink” (Bohannon 63). Also, when viewing a camel on display, she convinces herself that “This isn’t the work of purists or simple anatomists. This room is a workshop for artists” (Bohannon 65). While holding of the smoker, Bohannon finally hears “the message spoken in an unfamiliar language – a language made of breath and blood and finality” (69).
Bohannon’s essay reminds me of Annie Dillard’s essay “Seeing”. In that essay, Dillard explained how there... [continues]
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