Copulating corpses spark outrage in Berlin show

Wed May 6, 2009 1:04pm EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - An exhibit showing two corpses copulating has triggered uproar among German politicians.

German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, famous for his global "Body Worlds" shows of preserved human cadavers, will now be displaying skinless corpses -- including a "plastinated" man and woman having sex -- from Thursday in Berlin.

"To earn money with corpses is absolutely unacceptable. But this couple is the worst thing yet and should not be shown," Alice Stroever, a Green Party lawmaker who heads Berlin city parliament's Culture Committee, told Bild newspaper.

Pictures of the couple in the "Cycle of Life" exhibition show a skinless man lying on his back with a woman sitting on him with her back toward his head.

"I think it is revolting. Hagens rides on a wave of taboo-breaking and the couple plumbs the depths of tastelessness. I would prefer it not to be shown," said Michael Braun, a conservative lawmaker in the Berlin parliament who specializes in cultural affairs.

Kai Wegner, a conservative member of Germany's federal parliament, called for an investigation to look into whether the exhibit was legal.

"In my view this exhibit is not a piece of art that is protected by the constitution," he told Bild newspaper.

Von Hagens -- who has developed the plastination process in which the bodies of donors are preserved in hard resin and dissected in slices, and sometimes put on sale as anatomy teaching aides -- argues his work is legitimate.

"Death and sex are taboos. I am bringing them together," von Hagens was quoted as saying, adding that two thirds of the men and one third of the women who donated their bodies to him had said they would be willing to be shown indulging in sexual acts.

Millions of people have visited the "Body Worlds" exhibition which has traveled the world. But it has caused controversy in some places. Last month, a French judge shut down one of his shows, saying it was indecent.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>People look at a plastinated human body during the press preview of the new Koerperwelten ('Body Worlds') exhibition in Berlin May 6, 2009. Anatomist Gunther von Hagens, famous for his Body Worlds shows of plastinated human bodies, has triggered uproar among politicians in the German capital with a new exhibit showing two copulating corpses. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>