Who Are You Wearing?
July 16, 2016 4:31 PM   Subscribe

A designer will grow Alexander McQueen’s skin in a lab to use for leather bags and jackets. Tina Gorjanc has proposed a conceptual range of leather accessories made of skin grown from late fashion designer Alexander McQueen's DNA.
Tina Gorjanc, who is just finishing the material futures program at McQueen’s alma mater, London’s famous fashion school Central Saint Martins, is working on a project that will use McQueen’s DNA to grow skin, which she plans to tan and turn into leather jackets and bags. The skin will even bear tattoos based on the exact “locations, size, and design,” of McQueen’s, she says.
The lab manipulated the genes that control freckles and moles as well, and the skin can get sunburned.
posted by hilaryjade (97 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tasteful.
posted by Termite at 4:36 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


The classics never go out of style.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 4:47 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Introducing "Wear Your Boss To Work Day."
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2016 [30 favorites]


There's such a confluence of concepts and emotions attached to this idea. I'm entirely unable to untangle the knot in my brain to say anything coherent about it, really. I'm not sure I support this project, really. As an artistic statements, I think it's got a lot to say. As an actual clothing line, I think it's pretty disgusting.
posted by hippybear at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


I saw this article yesterday and was mildly entertained and interested, but the title of this post made it all worthwhile.

The article put me in the mind of the Ware series by Rudy Rucker, which posits a future in which cloned human meat is available at supermarkets for eating. And the woman it is cloned from is actually still around.
posted by ejs at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can't wear him after Labor Day though.
posted by Kabanos at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [51 favorites]


On one hand, it's a clever, innovative alternative to using animal skin in consumer products.

That being said, selling human skin is completely fucking repulsive.
posted by dfm500 at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Well this is a thing that is happening
posted by littlesq at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


This feels like a thing that I will think of as kind of gross but that, one hundred years from now, will be totes ok with the cool kids.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:59 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


TBH my first reaction was "lampshades made of human skin".
posted by hippybear at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2016 [33 favorites]


Yeah, fuck this on several levels, but most especially on using the genetic material of a troubled dead man who can't consent. Use your own fucking genes, vampire.
posted by phooky at 5:03 PM on July 16, 2016 [45 favorites]


Oh yeah. I have almost no idea how I feel about this at all - repulsed + intrigued + other things. But I definitely thought it was interesting.
posted by hilaryjade at 5:05 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Two thoughts came to mind:
1. That's brilliant art.
2. I'd like off this planet please.

2016, everybody.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 5:05 PM on July 16, 2016 [33 favorites]


The entire first run has already been reserved by one Jame Gumb of Belvedere, Ohio.
posted by aaronetc at 5:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


I struggled with this story on so many levels. But especially on the level of believability. So , she's got some hair from a secret source that she hasn't tested yet and a super secret patent for the technology? I don't know, it all sounds rather unlikely to me.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


It can't be sunburned in bag form, surely though? It's..."dead", as in there's no inflammatory reaction possible, since there's not any circulatory system or whatever is behind the experience of burning. Like, cows can get a sunburn, but my antique white leather gloves certainly don't turn pink.

Also, agreed. Use your own damn DNA. This is obviously meant to be repulsively inappropriate, but I see it as when someone announces dramatically to you "I'M VERY WEIRD!!"--they certainly are, but not exactly in the way that they meant. This is horrific and shocking, but not in an interesting way. Just a bunch of nope, however edgy and scientifically interesting.
posted by zinful at 5:12 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Call me when it's a leather jacket made from Steve McQueen's skin. That will be the epitome of cool.
posted by stevis23 at 5:26 PM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's not clear to me that it is at all possible to make something like leather from fibroblasts grown in culture, like, at all. Certainly it would be incredibly difficult to make large enough pieces to make something like a jacket.

I'm not buying it.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:30 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's conceptual, folks.
posted by lucidium at 5:32 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, we're really not at the level of bioengineering where we can just grow sheets of skin given an arbitrary person's DNA, so I agree with lesbiassparrow (and on preview, quaking fajita) that for now this is a merely conceptual project.

But on a conceptual level, I kind of think this is great. It actually has a lot of layers, I think. There's the gonzo shock value and the general discomfort caused by a fashion product made from human skin, but it also brings up some very real and important issues about biotechnology and gene patents, the ethics of using biomaterials derived from people (if anyone hasn't heard of Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells, it's a fascinating and sad story and is really required reading here), as well as a "right to die/right to be forgotten" angle. I think there's a lot going on here and I think it's a fitting tribute to a designer who had such a sinister, macabre edge to his work.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


Growing skin to make bags seems a lot less weird to me than chopping up animals? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by CarolynG at 5:44 PM on July 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


Anyone else feel like this theme is just stolen from the movie Antiviral?
posted by Crystalinne at 5:48 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


If this is successful and begins to be used with other people's DNA, I can imagine one public egomaniac who puts his name on everything will get in on this... Trumpskin, anyone?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:53 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah. I have almost no idea how I feel about this at all - repulsed + intrigued + other things. But I definitely thought it was interesting.

Grats on what seems to be your first FPP! I agree with ejs--even just the title made it worthwhile. :D
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:55 PM on July 16, 2016


Will the bags and jacket pockets be filled with fava beans and a nice Chianti?
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:57 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Boston Athenaeum has a book bound in human skin.
posted by adamg at 5:57 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Wobbuffet - the title is not of my making tho- it came from the Quartz article.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:00 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some day, we will have a clutch that, you know, actually clutches.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:04 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


hilaryjade has been here for 7 years and this is their first FPP?

Well chosen! You have a good eye -- post more!
posted by hippybear at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


This technology, had it existed a few years ago, might have spared those nice surgeons the trouble of having to jackplane 10 microacres of skin off my thigh for a set of autologous skin grafts.

Seems like this would be a great application today.

But bags are cool too.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 6:14 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oooh I hope they can figure out how to make the skin grow chest hair too. My husband has a magnificent pelt and I would love to have some pillows made from "his" lab-grown hide to snuggle when he's not home.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:15 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I sometimes ask friends the following:
if it was possible to grow a steak starting with a human DNA sample, and you could have any celebrity chef clone themselves in steak form and then cook that steak, which
celebrity chef would you pick?
Maybe not so far fetched after all...
posted by simonw at 6:21 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


It can't be sunburned in bag form, surely though?

I think they meant it could get sunburned in vitro. Which, theoretically, sure, I guess, but tanning requires a hormone to be secreted from the pituitary gland so they'd have to add that in; the cells wouldn't just get tanned on their own given sunlight exposure.

This technology, had it existed a few years ago, might have spared those nice surgeons the trouble of having to jackplane 10 microacres of skin off my thigh for a set of autologous skin grafts.

I think that's basically proof that the technology does not in fact exist yet! People totally do want to grow replacement autologous tissues/organs, using e.g. induced pluripotent stem cells, but right now we're mostly at the stage of "given lots of money and time, skilled personnel can transform skin cells into heart-ish cells that beat in synchrony in a dish, at very low efficiency."
posted by en forme de poire at 6:21 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


It puts the lotion on its skin...
posted by ocschwar at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, the urge to create. I hope nobody who reads about this has been denied a skin graft because of expense or resource scarcity.
posted by amtho at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm filing a provisional patent for a process in which cells from the buttocks are taken and lab-grown into large sheets. The butt-sheets are harvested and cured into leather which is then made into hats. Ass hats.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:23 PM on July 16, 2016 [43 favorites]


Hi, Maisie, could you tell us who you're wearing tonight?

Mexican wrestlers.

posted by adept256 at 6:47 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


I want a leather jacket made out of the Fonz. It would be so very meta.
posted by 4ster at 6:48 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


i think i'd normally have a squick reaction to this, but i absolutely thing mcqueen would LOVE it - conceptual or not.
posted by nadawi at 6:50 PM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Not to go full-Courtney here, but yes, it's uncomfortably easy to imagine a near-future full of celebrity skins.
posted by rokusan at 6:53 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


But on a conceptual level, I kind of think this is great. It actually has a lot of layers, I think.

Well, the epidermus for sure, and possibly the dermus, but I think the hypodermus is unlikely.
posted by carmicha at 6:56 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


And if it gets wrinkled, you just give it a few shots of Botox.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:04 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thought the same as nadawi: Alexander McQueen would absolutely have designed himself-skin bags and jackets and shoes had he the tech. No doubt in my mind. This technology is coming way too late to see what crazy shit he'd have done with it.
posted by padraigin at 7:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thought the same as nadawi: Alexander McQueen would absolutely have designed himself-skin bags and jackets and shoes had he the tech.

Knowing what I've read and watched about McQueen's personality, he'd more be more likely to make fashion out of the skins of fashion critics.
posted by xingcat at 7:14 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I forwarded this to one of my fashion-y friends. She called me just now to ask, "So if the bag is made out of a human, does that mean it's not vegan?"
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:30 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Technically it's made of lab-grown human skin. "Made out of a human"... that's problematic.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


she found this thread and is now yelling at me over the phone for making her sound like a creepy hipster
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:33 PM on July 16, 2016 [34 favorites]


Friends are the best.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: making you sound like a creepy hipster
posted by hippybear at 7:35 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Alexander McQueen would absolutely have designed himself-skin bags and jackets and shoes had he the tech.

Agree, which is why I love that the "source" DNA comes from hair McQueen encased in plastic as part of his "Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims" collection.
posted by carmicha at 7:39 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I want a leather jacket made out of the Fonz. It would be so very meta.

With sharkskin pants, naturally, for jumping.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


lab-grown sharkskin, I would hope
posted by hippybear at 8:01 PM on July 16, 2016


Holding out for wubskin.
posted by Devonian at 8:05 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Use your own fucking genes, vampire.

Her own genes are not haute couture
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Trumpskin, anyone?

No, thanks. I don't look good in orange.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:08 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Gorjanc’s project is intended to raise questions about how corporations might one day exploit genetic information for luxury goods, and to showcase how little protection exists for a person’s DNA ...
Casting this another way, hypothecise a corporation producing artificial ivory from cloned elephant cells, or whale oil from cloned blubber. These apparently benign products would tend to support demand for the natural product and could therefore actually work against the survival of the species from which the natural product is derived, since rich assholes would want "the real thing".

On this basis, creating a market for human-skin products sounds like a really, really bad idea.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 8:41 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


So the consensus is this is gross, I think that's pretty clear from the comments, yet wearing tortured animal leather is generally ok? torture free animal (yes it is.) skin used for fashion --> gross. tortured animal skin for fashion--> meh. So the mechanism for gross is the (invisible to the eye) DNA being too correlated with one's self? maybe people should research how correlated mammalian and human DNA is in general. Might make the world a better place through revulsion...
posted by forgettable at 9:02 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Moisturize me!"
posted by Catblack at 9:17 PM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


she found this thread and is now yelling at me over the phone for making her sound like a creepy hipster

Tell her that thin-skinned people will never make it in fashion.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:39 PM on July 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


Gotta be honest, I had a 'squick' knee-jerk reaction to this as well. Then I read this comment by CarolynG:

Growing skin to make bags seems a lot less weird to me than chopping up animals?

... and it challenged my reaction. How the hell is it that our current slaughtering of other species for this very purpose is (implicitly, at least) A-okay with me but not this?

This is why I like this place. It constantly challenges me to scratch beneath the surface.

(and yes, I vote for more from hilaryjade! thanks for an interesting first FPP!)
posted by bologna on wry at 10:01 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


also i just got home from drinking lots of alcohol and i;m marveling that I just spelled all of that correctly with what looks to me to be pretty much correct capitalization and punctuation. Just sayin'.

friends don't let friends metafilter drunk.
posted by bologna on wry at 10:10 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


The tanner paused in his unfolding of the pelts. “Aha! Notice here; a true curiosity!”

Myron saw that the color of the leather was pale. The tanner explained. “It is the pelt of an off-worlder!”

“A tourist, I hope, and not a spaceman?” asked Schwatzendale.

“Yes, a tourist, with a most unusual pelt. Notice the tattooing! It is splendid, is it not? For instance, here: the whorls of red and green on the abdomen, and the fine floral pattern along the buttocks! Pelts of this quality are rare, and I shall invoice it as an expensive specialty.”


-- Jack Vance, Ports of Call
posted by Autumn Leaf at 10:11 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


DAMMIT people. If you are going to make something out of Alexander McQueen's (ALLEGED) skin, it had better be really goddamn interesting.

Showcasing the materials my ass.



WAIT


no



NOT LIKE THAT



friends don't let friends metafilter drunk

shit, dude, that's how i got like 87% of my favorites

posted by louche mustachio at 10:39 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Anyway, pfff, this is SO Waushara County 1950s retro I just can't.

Like, PLEASE, we totally did that.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:04 PM on July 16, 2016


Skinny jeans?
posted by ian1977 at 11:11 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


We use 21st century science to basically create a stone-age fetish imbued with the magical energy of the dearly departed.

Humans are fuckin' weird, yo.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:26 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Skinny jeans?

Iceland is cooler than you.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:36 AM on July 17, 2016


what is happen
posted by poffin boffin at 12:40 AM on July 17, 2016


Human celebrity steaks are also a plotline in the movie Antiviral. For realz. Fascinating take on celebrity and DNA.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 AM on July 17, 2016


I would stick an Alexander McQueen label on my arse and walk around naked, but I think the baggy tailoring would give me away.
posted by Segundus at 1:36 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Relevant
posted by Autumn Leaf at 2:08 AM on July 17, 2016


Some of this artistic ground is quite well trodden. The Tissue Culture and Art Project made a miniature jacket out of mouse cells in 2004. It's just cell culture on a scaffold shaped like a jacket; it's not really skin per se and I don't think you could tan it.
posted by cromagnon at 3:06 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "If this is successful and begins to be used with other people's DNA, I can imagine one public egomaniac who puts his name on everything will get in on this... Trumpskin, anyone?"

Surely you mean Rumpletrumpskin? Orange is the new black...
posted by chavenet at 3:13 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Manipulating the genes for freckles and moles... that's NOT how it works. That's not how any of this works.

I wanna find and read that patent.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:54 AM on July 17, 2016


What's the big deal? Apple did this years ago with their new line of MacBooks.

Cook presented the bizarre, malformed new product to stunned silence during a media event at Apple headquarters, revealing a device that, while vaguely similar to a computer in certain respects, appeared to be encased in a thick, flesh-like coating that was visibly moist and engorged.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:59 AM on July 17, 2016


"whoa, who's that old bag?"
posted by Mr.Pointy at 7:08 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Skin is complicated. It is an organ, and in fact it's the largest organ grown by the human body. If we could grow arbitrarily large sheets of skin we would also probably be able to grow hearts, kidneys, pancreas, and other useful genetically perfect replacement parts. And those uses would probably take precedence over the foofy handbag market.

The big problem with growing organs is that they are not homogeneous. They require nerves and a functioning circulatory system and blood and the services of other organs like the kidneys to keep them healthy. You might be able to grow skin cells in a culture but getting them to grow the fibrous microstructure that makes leather strong is a whole 'nother thing.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:44 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow. Jaqueline's idea has me thinking that nothing would amp up the manliness of my bachelor pad more than furry Sean Connery throw pillows.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:58 AM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I would be pretty into this if it weren't just being monetized for the sake of rich douchebags. Like growing fake leather seems ethically sound, and potentially growing genetically identical skin sounds as though it might have implications for tissue rejection/grafting.

Of course since we're in the darkest timeline it will probably just end up being the final step in giving the fleshy terminators that nice "well-sculpted Austrian" look we've come to expect from our killbots, or the first step in some sort of weird real doll meets Burroughs thing with people actually putting buttholes on their handbags.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:16 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's conceptual, folks.

Seriously. The abundance of ignorance in this thread (and in TFA) about what conceptual art even is is pretty embarrassing. The many obvious technical impossibilities of producing the final product ought to be a bit of a tipoff.

THE IDEA IS THE ART. THERE WILL BE NO BIOENGINEERED STEVE MCQUEEN LIVING SKIN BAGS.

Sheesh.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


people actually putting buttholes on their handbags.

Handbags, hell. I know some machinery that could really stand to have valves that worked fine for decades without replacement.

The abundance of ignorance in this thread...

Naw, it's just funnier that way.
posted by ctmf at 10:32 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


"The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek The Holocaust" - Tina Gorjanc
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:41 AM on July 17, 2016


I'm sure that there will eventually be cloned celebrity skin products, as well as cloned celebrity meat.

But that just means there will be fake knockoff products, done by manufacturers who don't bother with the cloning, and just get the skin and tissue from living people. Don't go near dark alleyways- there will be "fashion acquisitions experts" lurking with flensing knives and medical coolers.
posted by happyroach at 10:44 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


What is the difference between conceptual art and me smoking a few bowls and Having Ideas?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Woah man. What is the difference, when you think about it?
posted by RobotHero at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


THE IDEA IS THE ART. THERE WILL BE NO BIOENGINEERED STEVE MCQUEEN LIVING SKIN BAGS.

I think the art is her very good use of the publicity machine. The interviews certainly suggest that she's keen to say that the concept will become reality and clone your man away. I can't fault her for using the revulsion that people feel at this to get her name out there, but it's not like she's not banging on the 'I will make a coat of Alexander McQueen!' drum.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:38 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Actually I've decided that there is no difference, and that I've been creating conceptual art privately, with my friends, for years now. Except I've been doing it with no formal training and outside of the Officially Recognized Art Community, so it's more like conceptual folk art. I don't record or publicize it either, so I guess that makes it ephemeral conceptual folk art. Since my art is ephemeral and since, like most folk artists, I am not pursuing large audiences for my work, I will probably always remain obscure. It's a lot of fun to do though, and I salute this person who appears to be making a career out of it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:46 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was watching a clip about an episode of Fear Factor that (probably) led to the end of its run. The discussion was that as the show tried to keep coming up with new ideas that already tended towards the scary and gross, they needed to keep pushing the envelope to keep the show interesting, and perhaps stepped over that line to where people were like, yeah, you didn't need to go there. After that point, where do you go? I wonder how many industries that rely on novelty head in that direction eventually.

Also, if this becomes fashionable, I'm pretty certain someone is going to make a horror flick about college students traveling overseas who get kidnapped to provide skin for a black market business that doesn't have the funding to set up their own DNA skin production lab.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:20 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Except I've been doing it with no formal training and outside of the Officially Recognized Art Community, so it's more like conceptual folk art.

Just wait a bit, David Byrne will almost certainly put out another album one day and he'll need cover art.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:12 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


THE IDEA IS THE ART. THERE WILL BE NO BIOENGINEERED STEVE MCQUEEN LIVING SKIN BAGS.

Well, now I want one.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:51 PM on July 17, 2016


I'm filing a provisional patent for a process in which cells from the buttocks are taken and lab-grown into large sheets. The butt-sheets are harvested and cured into leather which is then made into hats. Ass hats.
posted by b1tr0t


b1tr0t, I. I. I. I.Can't. Stop. LAUGHING.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:41 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


THE IDEA IS THE ART.

Sheesh indeed. Pretty sure the ignorance is feigned for the most part. Some of us just have fun playing around with the ethical implications of growing celebrity skin. Which, you know, seems to be her intention?

I want a terminator butthole handbag infused with Steve McQueen's essence.

[on preview, what ctmf said]
posted by aspersioncast at 8:12 PM on July 17, 2016


Tell her that thin-skinned people will never make it in fashion.

Or into heavy-duty handbags, anyway ...
posted by milnews.ca at 8:01 AM on July 18, 2016


I get it that this is conceptual art, still I want to talk about the feasibility.

A long time ago I was into what is now known as biohacking. I did some visually cool stuff with fungi and bacteria. I had a home made 'clean room', glove boxes, laminar flow hoods, incubators, etc...

Most of the effort went into networking with and social engineering people with access to the hard to get supplies. It is impossible to buy a few grams of this or that, and I don't have the need or the money for 10 kilos of the stuff, so I have to make friends with the guy who works at the lab and get my hands on a few prepared plates.

Back to the skin, I did try to grow some mammal skin. No idea if frog skin would be easier. You gently blend the skin sample to separate the cells without destroying them. You put them in a sterile container with a flat bottom and add growing media (really expensive growing media). You hope some of the cells stick to the bottom and start building a film. You gently rock the container for hours and hours to bathe the cells in fresh media. All this in an incubator, keeping everything as close to sterile as you can.

The problem is that the cells like to clump, and since you are not growing blood vessels, the cells in the middle of the clump get no nutrients and die. Even if you get lucky and the cells form a film, as soon as the film get more than a few cells thick you get the same problem. Time to blend them again and repeat.

So after 3 months of intense work and a few thousand dollars of material spent, I had a .25 mm square of two cell thick slime probably made of skin cells.

I think now it is possible to make a matrix of some bio compatible material to work as scaffolding for the cells, and I think it may help with nutrient and waste movement. I have been out of the loop for ten years, but I hear interesting stuff from bio hacking spaces.

So... If the artist had a lot of money to burn, access to experimental technology, a lab, and a bunch of really smart and capable people working on it, I think this is feasible. A 6 million dollar jacket that takes 5 years to build.

Btw, I got almost no interest from people in my projects back then, when I moved in nerdy and artsy circles all the time. My only hit was a salad bowl made of (badly) plastinated steak. It was not food safe, it outgassed and ended up half rotting, but I guess it pushed all the right buttons.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:19 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh Doroteo Arango II I love the idea of your not food safe salad bowl made out of plastinated steak!!! Please tell me pictures exist.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:19 PM on July 18, 2016


Sorry hilaryjade, no pics.

I wish I had pictures. One of the regrets I have about those years of my life is that I did very little documentation. It was a different time, no one had digital cameras, and in the circles I moved in, whipping out a film camera was a terrible faux pas. We were all about unmediated experience and the impermanence of art and all that stuff that sounds cool at 20.

(Never mind the difficulty of finding a place that would develop and print those pictures without calling the police, I have shoeboxes of 20 year old exposed and undeveloped film that I was never brave enough to take to the printer).

I can give a pretty good description. I was going for bright red and marbled, with a fresh steak look.

I could not find 100% pure lab grade acetone, my temperature control was not very good, the slices were too thick for home plastination techniques of the time, my vaccum chamber was DIY and leaked, and the exothermic resin reactions half cooked the steak.

Picture a 6 mm thick slice of steak in the shape of a cereal bowl (the mold). With curly edges, like when you first put the pie crust in the pie mold. Some parts are red and marbled, other parts are brownish-grey like the edges of roast beef. It is about 25 cm diameter. It is very slightly flexible, it smells like acetone and out-gassing fiberglass, some exuded liquid forms tiny beads on the surface, and after a few days it starts smelling weird and attracting flies.

I would love to try again with better equipment and techniques, but now the whole project feels kind of gross and mean.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 12:16 PM on July 19, 2016


So you essentially made a meat helmet
posted by speakeasy at 2:25 PM on July 19, 2016


« Older Essays by Rosa Lyster   |   "There would be no winners in any war, only losers... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments