Stage 1

Stage 1

Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr

The aim of Stage 1 was to grow, monitor and present partially living objects as pieces of art.

The artists grew tissues (fibroblast and epidermal cells) over three-dimensional, human-made technological artefacts, such as cogwheels. Three-dimensional computer animated sequences described the growth of the living artefact. The work was documented using medical imaging technologies.

Through the growth and documentation of these artefacts, the artists critically examine the impact of biotechnology on the future.


Background and rational:

Current and future development in biological derived technologies, in particular in the field of tissue engineering may yield objects that could be designed and artistically manipulated. This possibility raises many issues that have to be addressed. Those issues concern aspects of human development and scientific progress, and the interaction of humans (whatever kind they may be) with their environment. The use of artificially grown living skin (or living surface coating) as an independent tissue (by that I mean living tissue that is sustained alive and grows not as part of an organism but with artificial support) can become an exciting new artistic pallet which never existed before. The use of this pallet will not be just a method of creating new art forms, but also the actual process can be seen as an artistic statement and investigation of possible futures. In those futures the use of organic systems may replace and/or seamlessly interact with human-made structures to the extent that our cultural perceptions of what is alive and what is artificial will be redundant. This possible shift will represent a change in values and a shift in the perception of humans and nature. The purpose of the proposed project is to enable the artists to address some of those issues.

This concept was first raised by Oron Catts in his award winning Honours project titled ‘Living Surfaces, Biotechnology and the Design Way; An Investigation of Issues Concerning Design and Biotechnology, using a theoretical product development proposal for the use of Custom Grown Organic Surface Coating.


To be able to use and generate a completely new art form, that is yet to be explored and utilised. The manipulation growth of living cells in vitro conditions represent a new way for artistic expression with the unique combination of shapes, colours, and movement. An exploration of such aesthetics in three-dimensional space, was as far as we know, never utilised and explored artistically.

To highlight current technological developments and their cultural and social implications. It is obvious that technological and scientific developments are exceeding the cultural capacity to comprehend these changes. This is why this kind of artistic expression is so important now. Art that can be seen as the optimal medium to generate a discussion and a debate dealing with the contradictions between what we know about the world, and society’s values which are still based on old and traditional perceptions of the world.

To generate broader discussion concerning these issues and their ethics: Our project will be a genuine attempt, free from scientific or commercial hidden agendas, to raise different possibilities for the future as a base for pure discussion about the ethics and values of manipulating living matter and incorporating it with non-living systems.

To create a dialogue between the wider community and the scientific community, using art as a generator of critical and aesthetical debate.

To create radically different point of view, from which both the wider community and the scientific community will be able to gain practically as well as philosophically and culturally.

Stage 1 Preface I by Miranda Grounds, PhD. 1996
Stage 1 Preface II by Traian Chirila, PhD. 1996

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