The Pig Wings Project

By the Tissue Culture & Art Project

Advances in bio-medical technologies such as tissue engineering, xenotransplantation, and genomics promise to render the living body as a malleable mass. The rhetoric used by private and public developers as well as the media have created public anticipation for less than realistic outcomes. The full effects of these powerful technologies on the body and society have, in most cases, only superficially discussed. Deciphering the human genetic code, and the creation of genetically modified pigs for the purpose of transplanting their organs into to humans (xenotransplantation) opens up a space for the creation of ambiguous chimeras. The Pig Wings project was set to explore this space. Winged bodies (both animal and human) have been used in most cultures and throughout history. Usually, the kind of wings represented the creature (chimeras) as either good/angelic (bird-wing) or evil/satanic (bat-wing). There is yet another solution to flight in vertebrates which seems to be mostly free of cultural values - that of the Pterosaurs. We have used tissue engineering and stem cell technologies in order to grow pig bone tissue in the shape of these three sets of wings. The Pig Wings installation presents the first ever wing shaped objects grown using living pig tissue, alongside the environment in which such endeavour can take place. We will attempt to present living tissue engineered pig wings that will be animated using living muscles. This absurd work presents some serious ethical questions regarding a near future where semi-living objects (objects which are partly alive and partly constructed) exists and animal organs will be transplanted into humans. What kind of relationships we will form with such objects? How are we going to treat animals with human DNA? How will we treat humans with animal parts? What will happen when these technologies will be used for purposes other then strictly saving life?