Tissue Culture and Art Project / Orron Cats & Ionat Zurr (FI/UK) The Remains of Disembodied Cuisine

installation, 2004

In this installation we are presenting the remains - the pieces people spat out - of the semi-living frog steak we have grown and feasted on as part of the Disembodied Cuisine installation, L’Art Biotech, Le Lieu Unique, France 2003, as well as Pictures at an exhibition: Disembodied Cuisine by the Tissue Culture and Art Project, a film by Jens Hauser.

The installation presents one example of people’s consumption/rejection of the new technologies. In Disembodied Cuisine we grew Xenopus tadpole cell line (XTC) over biopolymers for food consumption (Cell lines are immortal cells that can divide indefinitely when given the appropriate conditions, such as fresh nutrient medium and space. There are cell lines that were originally derived from donors already in the early ninety fifties and are in use these days, long after the death of the original donor). Disembodied Cuisine installation culminated in a “feast” in which ourselves and some brave volunteers ate (and spat) the semi-living frog steaks that its remains are presented here.

The idea and research into this project began in 2000, in the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. The first steak we grew was made out of prenatal sheep cells (skeletal muscle). We were using cells harvested as part of a research into using tissue-engineering techniques in utero. The steak was grown from an animal that was not yet born.

This piece deals with one of the most common zones of interaction between humans and other living systems and will probe the apparent uneasiness people feel when someone “messes” with their food. Here the relationships with the Semi-Living are that of consumption and exploitation, however, it is important to note that it is about “victimless” meat consumption. As the cells from the biopsy (in case of a primary tissue) proliferate, the “steak” in vitro continues to grow and expand. Hence the source - the animal from which the cells were taken - is healing. Potentially, in an ideal world economy, this work presents a future in which there will be meat (or protein rich food) for vegetarians, and the killing and suffering of animals destined for food consumption will be reduced. Furthermore, ecological and economical problems associated with the food industry (growing grains to feed the animals and keeping them in economically rationalized conditions) can be reduced dramatically. However, by growing our food we create a new class of exploitation - that of the Semi-Living.

in collaboration with Jens Hauser
SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts is a jointly funded initiative between The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Department of Culture and the Arts.

Tissue Culture and Art Project / Orron Cats & Ionat Zurr (FI/UK)

Award winning artists, researchers and curators Oron Catts(Finland, 1967) and Ionat
Zurr (UK, 1970) formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture and Art Project. They have been artists in residence at the School of Anatomy and Human Biology since 1996 and were central to the establishment of SymbioticA in 2000. They are considered pioneers in the field of biological arts and are often invited as keynote speakers and exhibition curators. They publish extensively, exhibit internationally, and their work has been included in the collection of MoMA New York. Catts is the cofounder and director of SymbioticA at the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at UWA. Dr Ionat Zurr, who received her PhD from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts, UWA − is a researcher and SymbioticA’s academic coordinator. SymbioticA won the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica, Golden Nica in Hybrid Art Category. They have recently exhibited as part of the Medicine and Art exhibition at the Mori Museum in Tokyo, and at Design and Elastic Mind exhibition, MoMA NY. In April 2009, they were recognized by the Icon Magazine (UK) as being among the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work.”