Installation, 2013

Agatha Haines (UK)

With the introduction of bioprinting, the possibility of creating new organs may become a reality. The ability to replicate and print the cells that make up complex structures might possibly mean that different cells with various functions could be put together in new ways. This could hypothetically create new organs that would otherwise take humans millions of years to evolve naturally. Frankenstein-esque hybrid organs could be put together using cells from different body parts or even different species. Circumventive Organs is a series of speculative designs that imagine which parts of various animals could be used in combination with human tissue to solve common health problems.

The first concept, Electrostabilis Cardium, is a defibrillating organ using parts from an electric eel that can discharge an electric current to the heart when it recognises it going into fibrillation or cardiac arrest, returning the heart to its normal rhythm. The second, Tremomucosa Expulsum, is an organ that uses the strength and vibrations of rattlesnake muscles to release mucus from the respiratory system of a person who suffers from cystic fibrosis and dispels it through the stomach and into the body’s digestive system. The third, Cerebrothromba Dilutus, contains cells from the saliva gland of a leech and releases an anticoagulant when it feels the pressure of a potential blood clot in the brain, as a way of avoiding a stroke.

As new medical technologies begin to become the norm, they could be viewed not only as a way to enrich health but also as a new route into designing products. If it’s possible to replicate human material, which consists of many practicable substances, then why not go beyond the human body? This project aims to show the messy reality behind commoditising biological material, and its potential to help people in need. Based on the aesthetics of the weird and wonderful things that already exist inside us, is this what the future of designed biology might look like?

Artist's Statement

This project, like GROW YOUR OWN…, aims to open questions to the public about the future of designing biology and the ethics and choices behind new biological technologies. The project intends to make people consider the motives of the companies funding this sort of research, and the potential outcomes. What might this research then be used for? People can also consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of such procedures or technologies. Would they decide to have such an operation if it meant it might extend or better their life? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a kind of paradigm for the issues discussed in this project, along with lots of the current arguments about the future of biological technology. They point the way to the excitement of what humans can achieve and, at the same time, constitute a dire warning of the dangers of transgressing the natural.