Cellular Lingerie Line
by Kit Ondaatje Rolls
Using the octopus as methodological informant, this project explores the manifestation of meat in relation to culture.
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About the project
Octopuses have captured human imaginations for millennia, with many cultures associating this poly-morphological, eight-armed invertebrate into the embodiment of what is intrinsically monstrous, erotic and ravenous.
Exploring human-octopus ‘cultures’ of the past, present, and future, my project critically analyses the manifestation of meat, in relation to culture. In the laboratory at CSM, I explore an alternative sustainable source of meat: cell cultured octopus. Upon familiarising myself with this industry and learning what it entails, I became aware that the ethics of even this biodesign agenda are disputable.
Admitting the octopus’ inevitable inter-tanglement with subcultural sinful pleasures: dark and weird, but highly popular and fetishised, I present Octopussy: a cellular lingerie line. Erotic and over-excessive. It is not a product for mass-consumption. Rather, a prop for igniting curiosity and conversation around society’s fetishisation of technological solutions to innumerable ecological crises. Our desire to do this is explored in my short documentary with interviews from key figures of the cultured meat debate.
Cell culture protocol.
Octopus biopsy to retrieve muscle cells for culture.
In this project I work both in situ and ex situ: drawing from research conducted underwater, with octopuses living in their natural habitat, to experiments carried out in the lab, working with ‘semi-living’, disembodied cells. These interactions were documented audio-visually and accompanied by written reflections, reflecting my feminist/embodied ethnographic approach.
Octopus suckers holding shells for camouflage.
C2C12 muscle cells
Cell growth on biodegradable fishnet scaffold 20X
Cells in trypsin whilst passaging cells 20X
Like wild octopuses seeking refuge in the ‘nasas’ (traps) designed to capture, the muscle cells do the same in a biodegradable, fishnet growth scaffold. In order to shift from designing at a micro scale to a wearable scale, the surplus cells that otherwise would have been discarded were laced into an edible bioleather material and crafted into my cellular lingerie line.
Biodegradable fishnet growth scaffold in cell culture dish.
Cellular lingerie line: Octopussy performance.
Edible Bioleather laced with
C2C12 muscle cells.
Many thanks to Antonio Larrauri for the incredible diving experiences. To Ricardo Tur (2) of the Pescanova Biomarine Facility, for helping me to become fully immersed in the octopus aquaculture world. To Diego (1) and Ricardo for the early morning fishing trips. To Oron Catts (3), for your eloquent thoughts and writings on cultured meat. To Victoria Geaney for your time and direction. To all my interviewees. And to Paula for showing me Galicia, her home.
Catts, O. & Zurr, I. (n.d). Partial Life
Haraway, D. J. (2016). Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
Hayward, E. (2019). OctoEyes.
Kleeman, J. (2020). Sex Robots & Vegan Meat
Morton, T. (2018). Dark Ecology
Kit Ondaatje Rolls
Specialising in environmental and social anthropology, my work is inherently inter-disciplinary, seeking to bring new perspectives to typically isolated industries. In this way, my work aims to encourage society to embed ecological practice into design practice in the context of the current climate crises. Circularity, regeneration, and outreach drive my work and research. In 2018, I published Homeostatic Toes, an artistic book celebrating the catharsis of the arts: honouring the full spectrum of emotions that we humans can experience. Currently, I am seeking employment, continuing the exploration of human intra-relations with marine ecologies through documentary film.