Oron Catts and Biopolitics


The Tissue Culture and Art Project

In the class Art & Science Collaborations we have been studying some amazing work that blurs the line between art and science. Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr are doing some fascinating work with biological materials. The Tissue Culture and Art Project is re-appropriating tissue engineering for artistic material. they are actually making sculptures out of living tissue. “We coined the term ‘semi- living objects/products/sculptures’ to describe things that are both animate and inanimate, both part of an organism and outside of it.”

In an article written for Leonardo, Catts and Zurr describe a specific work they created called The Semi-living Worry Dolls which was first presented to the public at Ars Electronica in 2000 and was the first tissue engineered sculptures to be presented in a gallery context.  Regarding their work, Catts writes,  “These entities (sculptures) blur the boundaries between what is born and what is manufactured, what is animate and what is inanimate and further challenge our perceptions and our relationships with our bodies and our constructed environment.”  Some other interesting work they mentioned in the article was their use of muscle tissue and electric pulses to add movement to their sculptures.


The Semi-Living Worry Doll

In the article they bring up some ethical questions related to their work, “The ethical questions that have been raised by the project mainly concern our relationships with these semi-living objects: Are we going to care for them? Do these entities contribute to the objectification of living organisms?”

I think it’s interesting that  at the beginning of the article the authors write, “if we can keep a complex organ in vitro,why not design semi-living objects that can be sustained alive outside of the body for the duration of their use? The TC&A Project also asks: If this is possible, should we go down this path?” I might be misunderstanding this last sentence but what does it mean for them to ask if we should go down this path if their work is already going down this path? Whatever the case, their work is fascinating.