Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Terminal Ileum as Art

I was a biochemistry major in college, and I worked in the biotechnology field for about nine years before I entered law school. My college career also entailed a couple of fairly controversial performance art collaborations having nothing to do with science. After my first performance art experience, as a project for Mr. Hands' American Culture and Ideology class, Mr. Hands suggested that my next project should be to genetically engineer him a new terminal ileum. See, Mr. Hands has Crohn's disease, and when we were in high school, he had to have about a foot and a half of his intestines, including the terminal ileum, removed. He thought it would be a good performance art project to grow a new one and try to introduce it into his body.

Needless to say this was all mostly jive talkin'.

Well, much to my surprise, today Stay Free! pointed the way to this NY Times article about genetic engineering as art--like real art. The article catalogues for example, "creating 'victimless' meat by growing tiny steaks from biopsied frog cells and then eating the steaks; using bone cells from pigs to grow wing-shaped objects, a play on the 'when pigs fly' trope; coaxing cactuses into sprouting humanlike hair; growing tissue in a petri dish that could theoretically be marketed as a hymen replacement." You gotta read this article. It's brilliant and disturbing.

Plus, one of the bioartist's names is Steve Kurtz. He's been arrested by the FBI surrounding his art. As many of you know, I have a Steve Kurtz who was my supervisor in genetic engineering a cocaine addicted yeast strain. So, they're not the same guys, but it just makes it all a better story.

From time to time Mr. Hands still asks me about the intestines. Maybe he should look some of these folks up.


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