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Skin Lab

epiSkin biological jewellery, by Marta Lwin

'Skin Lab' draws attention to recent cutting-edge research and technological developments in skin science from the mid-20th century onwards. Concentrating on advances and innovations within the realms of plastic surgery, artificial skin and regenerative medicine, Skin Lab provides an opportunity for extended enquiry into the science and physiology of our largest organ, which is explored through the work of five contemporary artists: from Marta Lwin's biological skin jewellery cultured from epithelial cells to Rhian Solomon's sculptural re-interpretation of skin-flap diagrams. Also featured is a selection of medical films from the Wellcome Library archives that examines some of the unique properties and diverse pathologies that characterise the human skin.

Rhian Solomon
'Lessons on Limberg', 2010/'Bodycloth', 2010
Inspired by a revolutionary text by pioneering Russian plastic surgeon AA Limberg ('
The Planning of Local Plastic Operations on the Body Surface: Theory and practice', 1963), this newly commissioned work reveals the ongoing application in contemporary medical practice of Limberg's technique of constructing geometric paper models of skin flaps, which he used in the planning of surgical procedures in the 1960s.

Gemma Anderson
'Against Nature', 2010

This new commission reflects on epidermolysis bullosa (EB) - a genetic skin disorder that causes the skin and internal body-linings to blister with the slightest physical contact. Having worked closely with an EB patient, the artist Gemma Anderson has produced a series of intricate drawings (accompanied by an audio interview) that together provide a poignant and personal insight into the daily life and treatment experiences of a person with EB. At the same time, she also explores a host of metaphors and analogies, such as the parallels that exist between the deterioration of the skin and the decomposition process of plants and other organic forms, and finding beauty in decay.

Marta Lwin
'epiSkin', 2006-07
Cultured in a lab, epiSkin is biological jewellery made from epithelia cells, which are cultured to create an artificial skin. The cells are grown into designed forms controlled by the artist. The cells are incubated for a period of time, following which they are stained with a custom dye. The skin is then visibly sealed into a wearable object. The process of creating these pieces includes human tissue culturing as well as a computer-generated form on which the cells are cultured and then transplanted into adaptive jewellery.

Olivier Goulet
'SkinBag' garments, 2004
Oliver Goulet's SkinBag designer clothing range includes a variety of garments and accessories created from synthetic skin. They have a distinctive folded texture and seamless organic appearance and flexibility, all of which mimic the qualities of real skin. They are intended as bodily extensions that symbolise the ambivalence between the natural and the artificial, and the ongoing aspiration for perfect bodies, in particular perfect skin.

Jill Scott
'e-Skin'
'e-Skin' is an ongoing project that aims to develop a novel type of wearable and interactive interface which mimics the sensory capabilities of the human skin. The e-Skin lab in Zurich combines research expertise from the fields of human computer interaction, wearable computing, biomimetic robotics and ergonomic design. One of the intended applications for e-Skin is as an aid for the visually impaired to provide tactile and acoustic cues to help them to navigate complex environments.

Image credit: 'epiSkin' by Marta Lwin. Courtesy of Kate Kunath

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