11 December 2007

Ah, Art, Part XCLVII.

Transgressive, dumb, ugly, or, as usual, all of the above?
Stem cell experiments are no longer limited to researchers. A group of artists is making the evolutionary leap to the next medium: life. Bioartists create by engineering living tissue and even living beings, sometimes with controversial outcomes.

At the forefront of this movement is SymbioticA, a bioart laboratory funded by the University of Western Australia. Run by Ionat Zurr and her husband Oron Catts, the couple is continually pushing the boundaries of art; they've grown a replica of an ear with living human skin cells, miniature wings with the flesh of a pig and mouse cells in the shape of a tiny leather jacket.

Their innovative work has generated substantial interest and they're now also teaching others to do the same. During a recent workshop, hosted by the Machine Project in Los Angeles, Zurr guided a small group of aspiring bioartists through a "painting" exercise. First, Zurr sawed open the femur of a freshly-slaughtered cow. After choosing which cells she wanted, she "painted" them onto a three-dimensional scaffolding made of degradable polymer — a type of plastic. Over many weeks, the cells will grow over whatever shape the scaffolding takes, turning into a living sculpture of skin.

Here's the whole thing.


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