Pigs Bladder Football

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This article was written on 02 Apr 2012, and is filled under 2012, Notes.

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Science and Art, notes

Something which I had completely forgotten from when I first saw the Anthony Atala talk (see previous post) is that he begins by showing us a painting which was produced in 1996 by an artist called Joel Babb.  The painting depicts the scene of the first ever kidney transplant, which happened at Harvard Medical School back in 1954.

“First Organ Transplant” hangs in the hall at the Harvard Medical School and presumably was produced as a kind of testimony to this key moment in twentieth century medical history.  The paintings subject matter is important however the piece itself is a very conventional oil painting, in a kind of classical-realist tradition which presents all of the key figures convening at this seminal moment across the two theatres. It would not take a big stretch of the imagination to compare this staging with familiar episodes from Christian religious narrative, perhaps even the birth of Christ in the stable after all we do have three wise men entering from the left.

This kind of re-construction is one of the common ways in which people expect see a relationship between science, technology and art: an artist will illustrate or interpret existing cultural phenomena, and in the process, might bring their own spin to things, but the phenomena is always held up as primary and distinct from the artist or documentarian’s secondary perspective.

I think it is important to make the point that Pigs Bladder Football attempts to operate in a very different way artistically to this kind of work. Rather than illustrate something from the field of science, our project proposes new trajectories and kinships in the domains of sport and art.  More than this, we are presenting something “concrete” (a real object) – the first clinically engineered football – our art is not a signifier of something else.  Pigs Bladder Football aims for a level of agency and criticality within the very materials and processes being used – and draws upon a rich material history within football whilst engaging with current artistic practices such as the field of bio-art.

The process of developing this unique object in the laboratory refuses notions of “critical distance” being instead contemporaneous with current scientific applications.

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