Semi-Living Food: “Disembodied Cuisine”
Another way of treating living systems is by consuming them as food. Throughout history many humans have practiced some kind of division among living entities which are categorized as food or others (such as pets, ornaments, work etc.). These divisions are not always clear, and we must practice some kind of hypocrisy in order to be able to love and respect living things as well as to eat them.
Our latest project titled ‘Disembodied Cuisine’ will be shown in an international biological art exhibition” L’art Biotech’ in Nantes, France March 2003.
In the “Disembodied Cuisine” we will attempt to grow frog skeletal muscle over biopolymer for potential food consumption. A biopsy will be taken from an animal which will continue to live and be displayed in the gallery along side the growing “steak”. This installation will culminate in a “feast”. The idea and research into this project began in Harvard in 2000. The first steak we have grown was made out of pre-natal sheep cells (skeletal muscle). We used cells harvested as part of research into 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 proliferate the ‘steak’ in vitro continues to grow and expand, while the source, the animal from which the cells were taken, is healing. Potentially 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 (hence, growing grains to feed the animals and keeping them in basic conditions) can be reduced dramatically. However, by making our food a new class of object/being – a Semi-Living – we are risking of making the Semi-Living the new class for exploitation.