Pigs Bladder Football


How will changing the material properties of the ball effect the rules of our beautiful game?

Pigs Bladder Football launched one year ago by setting out a remarkable challenge: By August 2012, artist John O’Shea would culture the world’s first bio-engineered football, grown from living cells.

For six months now he has been artist in residence at the University of Liverpool’s Clinical Engineering Unit, collaborating with Prof John Hunt and Theun Van Veen and developing his own bespoke protocols for harvesting animal tissue.  Through biological experimentation, rapid prototyping and an iterative design process, this work has been an exercise of precise tissue engineering.

The final ball, which will produced by replicating the same techniques used to create artificial human organs, encourages us to consider the role life sciences will have in our daily lives today and in the future. It is also a reference to the colliding worlds of human enhancement, the bio-technology industry and the global capitalization of sport, which have become highly contested areas.

Pigs Bladder Football is a new commissioned for Abandon Normal Devices Festival.  The work is funded by the Wellcome Trust. and has been awarded the London 2012 Inspire Mark.  The work has been produced in close collaboration with the University of Liverpool Clinical Engineering Unit.

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Pigs Bladder Football re-connects traditional techniques and lost knowledge with the present day bio-technology industry, culminating in the production of the world’s first clinically engineered football.

The project began its research phase in 2011, exploring the historic and material origins of our beautiful game with members of the public. Through research, hands-on workshops, games development activities, short films and exhibitions  the artist worked with a wide variety of sporting groups, and enthusiasts.   During the AND festival in 2011 (hosted by FACT) O’Shea ran an “Organic Football Boutique” – where intrigued shoppers could learn about the project and handle animal offal – making their own handmade, organic, footballs.

In recent history (2006) the urinary bladder was the first laboratory grown organ to be successfully transplanted into a human patient.  Pigs Bladder Football instrumentalises these same scientific techniques towards a playful and aesthetic goals.

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