Folks often shy away from fancy cheese because it smells like feet. But what if the cheese was actually made from feet — or, rather, the bacteria that makes your feet stink? A couple of bio-hacker artists decided to explore that possibility. And it sounds really gross.
On Friday, Christina Agapakis and Sissel Tolaas will showcase their stinky human cheese project at a new exhibition called Grow Your Own… Life After Nature, hosted by Trinity College in Dublin. Their installation is literally a bunch of cheese wheels, each of which was made from bacterial samples pulled from the feet and armpits of different people. The artists hint at our society's obsession with antiscepsis and explain that the "intersection of our interests in smell and microbial communities led us to focus on cheese as a 'model organism.'" It's unclear if samples of the human armpit cheese will be available for the public to sample.
Believe it or not, the cheese display is hardly the weirdest installation at "Grow Your Own." The show's focus on synthetic biology means that the featured projects run the gamut from "Frankenstein-esque hybrid organs" to portraits made from analysing human DNA found on things like discarded cigarette butts.
And how could we not mention the project suggesting that humans incubate and give birth to dolphins so that we can eat them? That one's called "I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin…"
It's important to understand that the ideas being tossed around at this show are pretty conceptual and certainly arty. In a way, many of the projects highlight the absurd and even grotesque things made possible by the latest advances in biology and technology.
"Synthetic biology is a new approach to genetic modification, applying engineering ideals to the complexity of living systems," says lead curator, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. "It's both an evolution and revolution as biology could be transformed into a design material unlike one that we have ever known before: a self-replicating technology that is everything from hardware to software, the factory and product too."
This is all to say that you probably won't find human bacteria cheese in your local grocery store anytime soon. (No, not even at Whole Foods!) But some of the show's other off-the-wall projects might be closer to reality than you think. If we already have artificial hearts, for instance, why not build a hybrid heart out of electric eel DNA that works like a built-in defibrillator? [Science Gallery]