Scientists Off the Deep End

A group at the University of Western Australia, calling themselves “the Tissue Culture & Art Project”, have grown–yes, grown, out of disembodied mouse skin cells–a tiny leather coat with two inch sleeves. They call it “Victimless Leather“.

They started up a website to show it off, but declined to include any information as to the scientific processes which produced it (which practically shouts HOAX, and they could certainly have CGI’d the few pictures shown a lot easier than growing them, but let’s ignore that for the moment since this time I can’t prove it and it’s going to be a lot more fun to assume this thing is real). Instead of wowing us with their mad cell manipulation skills, folks at TC&A (T&A?) seem to want us just to accept it as a concept, an artistic concept no less, and a springboard for social debate. They call it “an ambigious and somewhat ironic take into the technological price our society will need to pay for achieving ‘a victimless utopia'”.

Let’s take them up on the offer, shall we? Ambiguous, indeed! “Somewhat” ironic? Any utopian vision whose primary tenet is minimizing the pain inflicted on cows in order to produce cool clothes for motorcycle gangs is in for rough waters. Wouldn’t a victimless utopia require that people stop killing each other? How exactly are undead garments supposed to help achieve that?

Step back for a minute and consider the possibilities of a form of disembodied skin that does exactly what we tell it to (we being not so much the dupes whose flesh it will eventually utterly fail to protect from the elements in order to gain autonomy, but rather the oblivious psychos who grew it in a lab). Have these people never played Resident Evil? Have they never heard of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Do they seriously expect us to believe our society will ever evolve a victimless utopia, let alone be led to it by a sci-fi genetics experiment gone horribly, horribly awry in which sentient doll clothes attempt to take over the universe, when they themselves assert they “would like [their] work to be seen in this cultural context, and not in a commercial context”?

Step back even further and give a little isolated consideration to the concept of disembodied skin. Aren’t we opening up a Pandora’s Box of epic proportions here? If two-day-old fertilized human egg cells are cause to treat doctors like witches, what’s to stop idiots from killing anybody they catch wearing a living leather coat?

Is this the best thing they can think of to do with these oh-so-sought-after, so-called “immortal” stem cell lines? Whatever happened to curing alzheimers? I am all for art, in any shape it wants to take (hence the line at the top of this blog about “at all levels and in all forms”)–until it starts stealing resources from things that might actually benefit humanity and aligning itself “ironically” with Evil. The Joker is the world’s first homicidal artist. I appreciate that. But I’m not about to let him use my blog.

“By growing Victimless Leather, the Tissue Culture & Art (TC&A) Project is further problematising the concept of garment by making it Semi-Living.”

Way to go, jerks. That’s what we need. Problematization. Where’s Michael Purpura with his Academics Anonymous labcoat and loony wagon when you need him?

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