organism: making art with living systems

The idea of making art with living systems is not new; you might even consider a garden or a goldfish pond to be biological art. What is new is the degree of control over biological systems and materials contemporary technology offers us. Topics on the organism weblog include technical, practical, aesthetic, and ethical issues related to making art with living systems. Artists, scientists, engineers, students, and anyone else with an interest in this area are invited to contribute.

September 2, 2007

Pickled fetus head fuels art furor

Filed under: news & oddities — organism @ 10:50 pm

Pickled fetus head fuels art furor


Fri Aug 26, 2005 01:19 PM ET

ZURICH (Reuters) – A sculpture made with the pickled head of a dead fetus attached to a seagull’s body has fueled
a furor in Switzerland about the boundaries of art.

Berne’s Museum of Fine Arts removed the piece from a Chinese art exhibition earlier this month after a complaint
that it was disrespectful to the dead, and following concerns its grisly appearance might traumatize visiting

The piece, named “Ruan,” stole headlines in Swiss newspapers when artist Xiao Yu confirmed that the fetus head
was real.

Now the museum’s management will decide next week whether to reinstate the work, which sits pickled in a jar of

“As a result of the complaint it was taken out of the exhibition with the proviso that there would be a debate
about the boundaries of art,” museum spokeswoman Ruth Gilgen said.

Earlier this week, ethics experts, artists and art lovers argued at a conference in Berne that keeping the work
under wraps was an affront to freedom of expression.

Swiss journalist Adrien de Riedmatten, who lodged the complaint, had demanded to know where the head came from.

“The complaint was not about restricting artistic freedom but rather about where this fetus had come from and how
the artist found it,” Gilgen said.

She said the head had belonged to a fetus conceived sometime in the early 1960s. It was later a museum exhibit.

“It had formed part of an exhibition in formaldehyde in Peking,” Gilgen said. “When that came to be renewed, it
fell into the hands of the artist.”

Concerns that the fetus might have come from a forced, late-term abortion could not be substantiated, Gilgen said.

(C) Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

More of Xiao Yu’s work: class="link">

*** Not exactly a currently living system, but certainly touching on familiar issues… –dr ***

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress