Disembodied Cuisine

Disembodied Cuisine

Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr

Disembodied Cuisine ironically offers the possibility of growing victimless meat using tissue culture. The project featured a temporary lab installed on site to culture lab-grown meat and a performance in which the artists ate the first cultured tissues.

The meat was grown from cells taken from the biopsy of a live animal and then proliferated in vitro. However, current methods of tissue culture require the use of animal-derived products to provide the nutrients necessary for cell growth and tissue culture. Until recently, this point seemed to go unnoticed by  advocates of in vitro meat. The abstraction of these animal products in the technology associated with tissue culture served to obscure the very real victims.

Disembodied Cuisine was realised in 2003 as part of the exhibition L’Art Biotech in Nantes, France. The installation played on the notion of different cultural perceptions of what is edible and what is foul. Semi-living frog steaks were grown, thus poking fun at French taste and their resentment towards engineered food, and the objection by other cultures to the consumption of frogs. Frog skeletal muscle was grown over biopolymer for potential food consumption, while the healthy frogs lived alongside as part of the installation. In the last day of the show, the steak was cooked and eaten in a Nouvelle Cuisine style dinner, and the four frogs that were rescued from the farm were released to a beautiful pond in the local botanical gardens.

Disembodied Cuisine is a continuation of the Semi-living Steak project, which was the outcome of a residency at the Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in 2000. The first steak was grown from pre-natal sheep cells (skeletal muscle), harvested as part of research into tissue engineering techniques in utero. The steak was grown from an animal that was not yet born.

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