Here’s something you don’t see every day — or, you know, ever: a living coat made out of mouse stem cells. Yep, really.
The coat was part an exhibition at MoMA called Design and the Elastic Mind. Here’s how the piece is described on MoMA’s site:
A small-scale prototype of a leather jacket grown in vitro, Victimless Leather is a living layer supported by a biodegradable polymer matrix shaped like a miniature coat, offering the possibility of wearing leather without directly killing an animal. Catts and Zurr believe that biotechnological research occurs within a particular social and political system, which will inevitably focus on manipulating nature for profit and economic gain. They argue that if the things we surround ourselves with every day can be both manufactured and living, growing entities, we will begin to take a more responsible attitude toward our environment and curb our destructive consumerism.
But wait,it gets stranger — and more interesting. Recently, the coat had to be killed — or turned off or… something — because its growth was out of control. And an arm fell off. From a story in NYT:
Though she has said I felt cruel when I turned it off, Ms. Antonelli [the exhibit's senior curator] said in the more recent interview that it was, essentially, a simple decision tinged with a bit of regret. It was the only piece in the show that was alive, she said. It really was an amazing piece.
Oron Catts, director of SymbioticA [the creator], said in an e-mail interview that he particularly liked what happened at the MoMA, with its slightly Frankensteinian sensibility of life growing out of control. The need to shut the exhibit fit in with the groups overarching goal to present the end of our projects in ways that remind people that these works are/were alive and that we have a responsibility towards the living systems that we engage in manipulating, he wrote. Besides, he added, the piece was able to regain some of its irony that was lost when it was put in the context of what he characterized as an optimistic design show.
photo: Ionat Zurr