Cringe Factor

A couple of days ago I wrote about the MAD embroidery exhibition and mentioned Laura Splan’s work. The artist had a cosmetic skin peel and then made a nightgown from the leavings. Peculiar to be sure, but in her defense, it does leave a lasting impression. And Splan is not alone. There are many artists who incorporate extremely unsettling processes or objects into their work.

Australian performance artist Stelios Arcadiou had an ear grafted onto his forearm. The ear was grown in a science lab and it took Arcadiou a decade or so to find a surgeon willing to sew it on. After the ear is fully functional, the artist plans to implant a microphone into it, then record and transmit the sounds heard by his third ear.

In New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the show Design and the Elastic Mind is ongoing until the May 12 and viewers do indeed need an elastic mind to appreciate many of the prototypes displayed. SymbioticA, an artist-scientist collective, is known for discovering a way to grow synthetic meat from tissue cultures. They succeeded in this in 2000. For this exhibition, they developed victimless leather jackets made of connective tissue, and human and mouse skin.

As art intersects more with technology it is inevitable that the definition of art will expand in unusual but fascinating directions. The lasting power of this kind of exploration, however, will not lie in the ability to titillate but to establish a worthwhile dialogue, something that these artists, to varying degrees, have done.