Archive for the ‘skin’ Category

books made of human skin

September 7, 2009

The Wellcome Trust Library has a couple of  books in their rare collections make of human skin. Here are a couple of them. I videotaped this during a visit a couple of weeks ago on my way to attend ISEA 2009 in Belfast.

I thank the staff for their generous support and time and the Wellcome Trust rare collections for allowing me to obtain and use this video documentation.


limited edition cryobook series

July 4, 2009


last series of books

July 4, 2009

The last series of books turned out in an unexpected way. The stamp imprints stained white instead of blue! Stuart said it probably had to do with the proportions of chemical mix. So now the imprint designs are white and the background is bluish/brown. In other words, I screwed up on mixing  the 4CN solution. But, I am  happy with the results. The designs on these books are by John Greyson (left) and Vincent Chevalier (middle). This is what the stamps look like.(My design is on the right).


here are the imprints as seen on the book sculptures:


vincentbookClose up of Vincent’s design on front cover. (Imprint on pig skin).

backbookimprint of both designs on back of book. (also imprint on pig skin).

First series of cryobooks

June 28, 2009



The first two cryobooks are finally done after two months of intensive development.

These books feature a custom designed stamp print by myself. (see above).The image imprinted within the skin of the books is a new sign for HIV.  (The red ribbon is in need of an update!). The rendering is not merely a representation, but a bringing into being  living signs.  Each stamped image is made visible by Lentivirus and HaCat cells that have been stained.

The next series will feature new designs for HIV  by Canadian performance artist Vincent Chevalier and Canadian Filmmaker and HIV/AIDS activist John Greyson.

June 27, 2009


tweeking the recipe and hours of cooking

June 17, 2009


Here is a shot of the new recipe/protocol in process. (Above). The solutions used for the immunohistochemical staining process after the mess has been cleaned up. (Below).


Today was a full day and night in the ‘kitchen’ cooking up the pig skin with virus.
This time I finally figured out how to mix the antibody solutions properly thanks to Stuart (my collaborator for Living Viral Tattoos and  a research scientist based in the Anatomy and Human Biology department). Besides getting the skin stamped, transplanting the viral host cells and incubating them (aka cooking them in the oven), I was measuring and mixing solutions for hours. The non-stop pipetting action and washing the skin with PBS is mindnumbing work.

The kitchen metaphor is fitting for this process. Last week the human skin  puffed out after it had been in the incubator for four hours, losing its stamp shape. Megan, a  SymbioticA regular, saw the  bloated skin pages and commented that they were overflowing souffles.  I’m trying to created more of a ‘pancake’ so that the stamp designs hold in the viral host cells as long as possible.

Here is a short video clip of ‘cooking’ the pig skin with HaCat cells, Lentivirus and primary antobodies in an incubator.

transfectedThis photo is not in focus but here you can see how the skin looks after incubation. The stamp imprint is visible apart from the rest of the skin due to a reaction between the viral Hacat cells and the pig skin’s epidermal cells.  If the immohistochemical staining process works, this area will turn blue in the shape of the stamp design.

Preparing more skin pages

June 16, 2009

stackofpigpagesAfter the book making workshop I am inspired to try to cut pages from pig skin again. This time I went to a butcher shop near the university and bought pig skin at four times the price charged by the locals in Chinatown.  Everything was clean and pretty in the butcher shop. The lighting was low and the meat highlighted. I always feel like I’m participating in a gigantic lie when I buy animal meat and skin in shops that smell like spice and herbs.

scoringThis pig skin is much more leathery than the last patch, and I think it will work well with the stamp.  I was able to score the skin to make different shapes this time. With the human skin it was impossible to try to define any shape or form whatsoever. I  used the surgery blade like an exacto blade ( or a Stanley knife as its called here). Also, I was able to use bookmaking techniques with the pig skin (like the kettle stitch) but I end up using surgery techniques (like the surgeon stitch) with the human skin.