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Floris Kaayk
The Modular Body

The Hague, The Netherlands

About

The Modular Body is a speculative fiction video work that asks us to consider the ethical questions involved in biotechnology research and development. The protagonist in The Modular Body is Cornelis Vlasman, a versatile biologist for whom the path well-travelled is the most uninteresting one by definition. He sets up an independent lab with a like-minded team to extend current technical and ethical limitations.

Vlasman’s experiments with organic materials leads to the creation of a primitive and vulnerable organism called OSCAR. This man-made biological prototype is made up of clickable ‘on and off’ organ modules grown from human cells. OSCAR is kept alive by blood taken from Vlasman and is continually vaccinated against infections, as it has no immune system.

Springboarding from historic narratives such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this work references contemporary scientific research in synthetic biology, wet tech and mechanical systems seeking to build new life formations via biological 3D printing. The artwork points to a possible future where the body is no longer a closed circuit but an open modular system, designed to have interchangeable limbs, spare-lungs and an electronic brain. This design blurs the lines between what we are born with and what we can create, problematising the borders between the natural and artificial.

Originally conceived as an online project comprising 56 interconnected documentary clips, the artist has drawn on this material to create a multi channel gallery version of the work. By initially presenting the work online the artist is interested in exploring the power of the visual to blur the lines between truth and fiction, a concern increasingly apparent in our online environments.

Playfully using documentary tropes, The Modular Body asks us to consider the ethics of human manipulation of life by bringing us back to the core question of what defines life.

 

The artist acknowledges the support from: VPRO; Mediafonds; Creative Industry Fund NL; Fonds 21; STROOM Den Haag

The Artist
Floris Kaayk

Floris Kaayk (born in 1982) is a Dutch digital artist. Kaayk graduated from the animation department of AKV St. Joost School of Fine Art and Design in Breda, and gained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.