A pair of Australian artists who call themselves the Tissue Culture & Art Project (TC&A) employ living cells to form living art.
Equipped with centrifuges, microscopes, and dissecting instruments,t heir studio is more like a basement biology laboratory than an airy artist's retreat filled with palettes, brushes, oils and a view.
Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, for the past couple of decades, have ”created works that are as much about art as they are about cell biology,” according to the Mar. 18, Art News.
But creating art in that has true "living" properties is not without problems.
In 2008, New York’s Modern Museum of Art curator, Paola Antonelli, had to call upon her scientific colleagues at Columbia University to destroy a living artwork created by TC&A called “Victimless Leather,” a tiny jacket made of living mouse tissue because the cells began to grow so rapidly “they were threatening to clog the incubation system that kept them alive.”
There are, however, some real humane possibilities uncovered by some of the bio art pieces.
Five years prior, the odd duo produced “Semi-Living Steak,” - lab-grown meat consisting of frog cells cultivated in a bioreactor. According to Art News, "These were cooked up in a honey-garlic sauce and served to diners at a museum in France, while the frog that supplied the cells looked on quietly from a tank.”
As part of the exhibition L’Art Biotech in Nantes, France the bio-artists included an installation titled ‘Disembodied Cuisine’, through which the artists poked fun at French taste and their resentment towards engineered food. Semi-living frog steaks were grown using frog skeletal muscle cells while healthy frogs lived alongside the cultured steaks. According to the TC&A website, “In the last day of the show, the steak was cooked and eaten in a Nouvelle Cuisine style dinner, and the four frogs that were rescued from the farm were released to a beautiful pond in the local botanical gardens.”
In the Disembodied Cuisine installation, Catts and Zurr brilliantly and ironically “offered the possibility of eating meat without killing animals, creating a victimless meat.”
Other projects include the "SemiLiving Worry Dolls" crafted after the legendary Guatemalan Worry Dolls and seeded with endothelial, muscle, and osteoblasts cells (skin, muscle and bone tissue) that are grown over polymers and the "Pig Wings" project in which three sets of wings were grown out of pig bone marrow cells.
Both Catts and Zurr are researchers at the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts School of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia.
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