Week 2 Research

Oron Catts on SymbioticA

Interesting that some scientists supported the project and then stopped supporting it. Were they expecting the centre to act as a mouthpiece for promoting the biotech rather than questioning and critiquing it?

"When we were looking for support for the establishment of SymbioticA we received much more positive reaction from the science community then from the art community here in Perth. Now things are a bit different and it seems that a major part of the art community here is becoming very supportive while some of scientists that originally supported us seem to realize that their expectations of what SymbioticA will do were based on archaic and sometimes exploitative views of the role of contemporary arts."

"Many of the artists are interested in problemetasing the knowledge and technologies they are engaged with, questioning the motivations, agendas and possible impact of these new developments. In most cases the research develops into the production of evocative cultural objects that brings into a wider context the ethical, philosophical and cultural ramification of scientific discovery and technological application.

Due to the fact that SymbioticA was a bottom up initiative that evolved organically, artists seems to have much more freedom and independence in the ways they choose to critique and present their findings. SymbioticA seems to operate very differently from most art and science initiatives in that it is not about creating public acceptance of new technologies and sets of knowledge but rather bring them into question."

Victimless leather

"We see our role as artists as one in which we are providing tangible example of possible futures, and research the potential affects of these new forms on our cultural perceptions of life." Victimless Leather, the Tissue Culture & Art (TC&A) Project http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au/vl/vl.html Accessed 8.8.06

Pig wings

Oron and his mates took bone marrow stem cells from pigs, cultured them over six months and then attached and injected and poured them over a polymer 'skeleton'.

This is where they used the music in an attempt to vibrate the cells into the polymer structure. It vibrated them and they certainly look different, but then anything shaken around to Black Sabbath and Porky Pig would probably look different - kind of wrecked.


Disembodied cuisine

Soylent Green with live frogs. This doesn't bother me too much, except are they eating the polymer base too? They seem to be drinking a lot of wine.


Extra ear - 1/4 Scale


The ear lives outside the body making us question what counts as life. Is the ear alive? If not, then what is it? They see it as semi-living. I'm curious about how they get the ear to grow in that particular shape. How do they send messages to the cells to direct them? Do the cells work together, like the slime mould, or are they independently directed by the outside force of the biotechnicians? Probably Verigen IP.

I find it disgusting, which is interesting in itself. Why do I? I can't separate the ear tissue from the body without it feeling macabre. To me it seems like a dismembered part of a body, even though intellectually I know it's not. Perhaps it is that the tissue is a bit deformed and the wrong colour - the humans natural(?) reaction to a difference in a familiar and intimate part of ourselves. Like the awful fascination of freak shows.

Reminds me of Judge Dredd "organ legging" - that was years ago.

"The first case of a hand transplant demonstrated the use of organ transplant techniques for proposes beyond strictly saving life. The media reported that the recipient requested that the 'new' hand be removed from him as 'He said it was like a dead man's hand with no feeling in it' and 'he felt "mentally detached" from it, focused attention to the complex relations between the self and the introduced extension." -

Clint Hallam was the New Zealander who rejected the hand he got in 1998 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1151553.stm

Clint was an early experiment that didn't work very well. He stopped taking the anti-rejection drugs and 'his' hand stopped working. It's also ugly as sin. I imagine the French surgeons saw a nice little earner if they could get the technique to work.

Mathew Scott US recipient of a hand in 1999- http://www.handtransplant.com/patients/matthew_scott/
This guy's new hand looks absolutely normal. I wonder if it's a hoax.Doesn't seem to be... He's now in his seventh year.


Face transplant patient uses new lips to smoke

5:41 p.m. ET Jan. 18, 2006 - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10912182/
Doctors fear habit will interfere with healing, raise risk of tissue rejection
TUCSON, Ariz. - The world's first face transplant recipient is using her new lips to take up smoking again, which doctors fear could interfere with her healing and raise the risk of tissue rejection.

"It is a problem," Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, who led the team that performed the pioneering transplant in France on Nov. 27, acknowledged on Wednesday.

The woman's French surgeons made their first scientific presentation on the partial face transplant at a medical conference here this week.

This article supports the Pig Wings premise quite directly. This woman, probably rich, is using her second set of lips for self inflicted damage. Some kind of terrible irony there.

Should we even be doing these operations?

"As hand surgeons and members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, we must ask, “What do we currently know of the expected outcome and risks associated with hand transplantation?” “Is this an operative procedure that we should recommend to an inquiring patient?”

In addressing these questions, we recognize several factors:
1. Hand surgeons clearly possess the needed technical skills to perform a successful hand or upper limb transplantation as evidenced by the experience in limb replantation.
2. Upper limb transplantation is now occurring in several areas throughout the world.
3. Advances in organ transplant (in particular, donor-related kidney and liver with careful tissue HLA matching) have demonstrated improved organ and patient survival in many life-threatening conditions. Success in transplantation of solid organs has steadily improved both technically and with improved immune suppression.
4. Public perception and expectations are high, yet they are without a clear understanding of the inherent risks of these procedures, both acute risks and chronic immune suppression risks.
5. We know that the hand is a complex organ of nerves, muscle, tendon, and vessels covered by an immune intolerant skin. Both humoral and cell mediated immune suppression is required. (9) While hand transplants have been contrasted to kidney transplants, a transplanted hand is not equivalent to any parenchymal tissue such as the kidney or liver. (10) (11) (12) And while a comparison of a hand transplant to a kidney transplant as equal with respect to the “improved quality of life”, statistics and analysis clearly demonstrate that kidney transplants save lives when one appreciates that with sustained renal dialysis, there is a mortality rate of 21%." -

Note that point 1 is that we can do it and point 2 is that everyone else is doing it. Reminds me of something my mother used to say...

Transplants from organs grown in animals.


"Pigs As Spare Parts Factories

Should xenotransplantation ever become a reality, pigs will be turned into spare part factories, plundered for their organs. Genetically-mutated and raised in artificial conditions, these remarkably intelligent animals face an unnatural and distressing existence. Other animals have been subjected to horrific experiments, including the grafting of hamster hearts into rabbits, and pig hearts into monkeys. Many of them have had to be destroyed soon after receiving the ‘foreign’ organ because of their immense suffering."

From the Uncaged animal rights website - http://www.uncaged.co.uk/xeno.htm#three

"Xenotransplantation offers a potential treatment for end-stage organ failure, one of the most important health problems facing the industrialized world today. It also raises many novel medical, legal and ethical issues. A continuing concern is that cows and pigs have different lifespans than humans and their tissues age at a different rate. Disease transmission (xenozoonosis) and permanent alteration to the genetic code of animals are a cause for concern."

From the Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenotransplantation

Not to mention the ethics of using animals in this way for our own arguably narcissistic purposes.

For myself, I think as a society it would be better to accept death in a lot of cases. Would I accept an organ from a tortured animal? I hope I would have the strength to say no.

These procedures are taking place despite the fact that we have people living without clean water, despite the fact that the world just has too many people and will have too many more. IMHO we are like slime mould gone mad in the petri dish and we're running out of water and oats. How many pig lives is a human life worth? And yet, I eat bacon. Pigs in Australia are not treated with the extreme cruelty that they are in some countries but still... I feel guilty, and yet I do it. These are everyday dilemmas. What's for breakfast? Dead pig belly and chicken ovulations. YUM.

Tissue engineering technologies

On the other hand if the organ were produced in a laboratory, independent of any living creature, that would be a different matter, literally and figuratively. It might be like having a pet, only the pet lives inside you. But it turns out that tissue engineering does still involve using an animal:

"Tissue engineering is a technique that offers the construction and growths of an organ in vitro (outside of the body) using the patient's own cells, and the re-implementation of the organ back to the recipient. It is intriguing that the image of the subject/object who brought tissue engineering into the public psyche was the mouse with the ear on its back. A nude mouse (a mouse with suppressed immune system) was used as a bioreactor, hence as a 'vessel' for the growth of an organ."

Are we just advanced slime mould?

"Embryonic stem cells are cells before differentiation. Hence, these cells have the ability to divide to any type of tissue, when they are given the right conditions and appropriate growth factors."

It seems what I want is the stem cell, DNA model - grow an organ to replace an organ.