Victimless Leather: Someone vs Something

People wear clothing for protection and functionality, but in a commercially driven society, clothing now becomes a marker for social identity and status. What people put over their bodies has often been taken for granted, whether they know of exactly what they are wearing or the materials used to make it. Victimless Leather was designed by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr as a subproject of Tissue Culture & Art Project made to question the fundamental concept of wearing garments or clothes into that which is part-living. The research and development was conducted in SymbioticA: the Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory, School of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia. Professor Arunasalam Dharmarajan from the School of Anatomy and Human Biology as well as Verigen, a Perth based company that specializes in tissue engineered cartilage for clinical applications, helped in the consultation for this project.This grown jacket is made up of immortalised mouse and human cell lines and form a layer of living tissue supported by a biodegradable polymer matrix, which makes a miniature stitchless coat like shape. (http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au) The cells are kept in a perfusion unit, which allows it to continue growing without keeping it alive, though it does require maintenance throughout exhibitions. This project has been exhibited over many countries, starting from Perth, Australia, 2004, to Canada, the UK, USA, Japan, and most recently Sydney, Australia, 2013.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victimless_Leather)

The goal of this project is to raise awareness of exploitation of other living beings, usually those who are victim to the leather and fur industries, and challenges the consumer product of clothing with the concept of morality in regard for other living beings. This was designed for people to view it in its cultural context, not for its commercial potential, as that avoids the real issue of slaughtered life in the manufacturing of clothes. How does this question the morality of people in treating other life forms; do we wear their bodies for the sake of our own egos and class? The Victimless Leather as an art form not only questions the ethical issues and practices of clothing, but extends that challenge to what science and technology can do about that. As technology progresses, do we still care about these animal life forms subjected to our garments? Despite advances in science, these issues such as clothing may be overlooked for the sake of pushing further designs of technology. This question does not only apply to clothing, but also scientific development at the expense of living beings. Do we allow these things to go unnoticed, whether they are animal testing or even poor working conditions for people, because we as a society only see the exterior and product marketed as new and nice? Though this treads in PETA territory, it is important to be aware of these issues and how they affect both art and science realms. The Victimless leather indicates an alternative, but mainly, it helps to make people think and wonder about what is disregarded in daily life.

Addison Bi

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