Macabre exhibition of corpses comes to NZ

Warning: The video above includes pictures of dead bodies.

New Zealanders are being invited to take a deeper look at themselves and their health as part of a new exhibition.

Body Worlds Vital literally peels back the layers to reveal what's beneath the skin we live in.

But people around the world have been flocking in fascination to this travelling exhibition of dead bodies, dissected and laid bare.

"You look at these specimens, but you realise it's you that you are looking at," says curator and physician Dr Angelina Whalley. "It's like self-reflection without a mirror."

The exhibition features corpses with afflictions like smoker's lungs and arthritis.

Dr Whalley says the purpose is not to shock, but to educate - and to inspire visitors to look after their own health.

"Around nine percent claimed they stopped smoking ever since," she explained.

"Around 33 percent said they would care for healthier food, and around 25 percent said they would exercise more than they did."

While the bodies may look like plastic, they're all real people who gave consent for their corpses to be used after they died. There's a body donation programme which 17,000 people have signed up for.

The bodies have undergone a preservation process called plastination. Each one takes 1500 hours of work and around a year to complete.

To prevent decay, the water in the tissue is replaced with a polymer.

The exhibition has been travelling the world for over 20 years and been seen by 45 million people, but it's just come to New Zealand for the first time. 

John O'Connell, Life Education Trust chief executive, hopes that when people see these bodies they'll make better decisions about their own.

"It's a brilliant expansion to what we're already doing with children," he said.

"We're teaching them the magnificence of the human body, and the chance to actually come and see it is a brilliant experience."