Partial life/the semi-living

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This Living Book is partially living – it is about the Semi-Livings and Partial Lives, tissues without a body .While the biological body cannot survive without organs and cells the latter two groups can survive in technological body, removed and separated form their original biological body. Living fragments of biological bodies, lab grown life- reconfigured, mixed and remixed, reappropriated, recontextualised and instrumentlised. The semi-livings require different epistemological and ontological understandings as well as considerations and, by extension, a different taxonomy of life. The Liminality of this type of technological approaches to life can lead to a form of fetishism - Neolifism. The Semi-livings and Partial lives are a new class of objects/beings, in most cases they constitute of living and non-living materials; cells and/or tissues from a complex organism grown over/into constructed scaffolds and kept alive with an artificial support. They are both similar and different from other human artefacts (homo-sapiens’ extended phenotype) such as constructed objects and selectively bred domestic plants and animals (both pets and husbandry). These entities are living biological systems that are artificially designed and need technological intervention in their isolation, construction, growth and maintenance. Semi-living and partial life can be seen as interchangeable terms. There are however some nuances; The Semi-Livings entities are usually shaped to forms that are not recognisable as being part of any Body in particular, partial life can be recognised as parts (i.e. an ear, or tissues) of a whole of a living being. Symbolically, in the continuum of made life, the semi-livings entities are nearer to the constructed part of the scale, while objects of partial life are approaching the grown. The "population" of what can be referred to as partial life and semi-living entities proliferated to a vast amount of cells and tissues that are living and growing outside of the organisms from which they originated. A rough estimate would put the biomass of living cells and tissues, which are disassociated from the original bodies that once hosted them, in the millions of tons. In addition, there are tons of fragments of bodies (cells, tissues, organs) that are maintained in suspended animation in cryogenic conditions ( ) . All of this biomass requires an intensive technological intervention to prevent transformation to a non-living state. These beings are rarely referred to as subjects; their existence (supported by the techno-scientific project) is indicative of the transformation of life into raw material that manifests itself in utilitarian and economic value. This edition of Living Book will try “to give them a voice” by presenting their history, and some examples of their use (and existence) with the aim to raise the problematics they may presents which are a reflection of current society: A society which attempt to cope with a growing gap between the rapidly increasing knowledge and technological ability to manipulate life, and the long rooted values towards life which are still lurking behind; a society that may be facing its own extinction as a result of ecological crisis and in urgent need to reconsider the Judo-Christian view of dominion over “nature” in favour of a more post-humanist agenda. Having control over life, its processes and the environment as whole may have always been the basis for human endeavour. What changing are the attitudes towards life resulting from the accumulation of scientific knowledge and technological capabilities, mounting up with increasing speed and scale of manipulation. A choreographed interplay between hype and actuality is overlaid on a public that is bombarded with information that should excite and disturb but is also easily forgotten. As the perception of the level of control over the matter of life increases, it seems that whereas previously biologists were employing their understanding of engineering to the life sciences, now it is the engineers who force-fit engineering methodologies into living systems; life is becoming bio-matter, waiting to be engineered.

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The Frozen Ark Project

Historical perspective of the Semi-living:

Precursors of Semi-Livings: whole bodies sustained alive in techno-scientific “bodies”:

Standard of the World Cyphers Incubator Company Buffalo N.Y. U.S.A. Annual Catalogue published 1896
Poultry growers guide for 1912, published by Buffalo, Cyphers Incubator Co. Lawrence M. Gartner and Dr Carol B. Gartner, The Care of Premature Infants: Historical Perspective in Neonatal Intensive Care, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE - A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE, A Symposium Commemorating Child Health Day Sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Originally presented October 7, 1985, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland NIH Publication No. 92-2786, October 1992. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Public Health Service National Institutes of Health. P.4

History of Tissue Culture:

On the permanent life of tissues outside of the organism by Alexis Carrel May 1, 1912 // Journal of Experimental Medicine vol. 15 no. 5 516-528 The Rockefeller University Press.

Carrel, A. and Burrow, M. T. (1911) Cultivation of tissues in vitro and its technique. J. Exp. Med. 13:387-396. This article with photos can be downloaded free from the archives at

Carrel, A. and Burrow, M. T. (1911) An addition to the technique of the cultivation of tissues in vitro J. Exp. Med.14:244-247. This article with photos can be downloaded free from the archives at

Carrel, A. (1912) On the permanent life of tissues outside of the organism. J. Exp. Med. 15: 516-528. This article with photos can be downloaded free from the archives at

Carrel, A. (1913) Contributions to the study of the mechanism of the growth of connective tissue J. Exp. Med. 18:287-298. This article with photos can be downloaded free from the archives at

Witkowski, J. A. (1979) Alexis Carrel and the mysticism of tissue culture. Medical History.;23:279-296.

Men, the Unknown by Alexis Carrel, 1935, 1939 by HARPER & BROTHERS


Early tissue culture in the UK:

Early Tissue Culture in Britain: the interwar Years, by Duncan Wilson, in Soc Hist Med (August 2005) 18 (2): 225-243. doi: 10.1093/sochis/hki028


The Tissue Culture King:

The Tissue Culture King by Julian Huxley in Great Science Fictions by Scientists, Groff Conklin Ed., Collier Books NY pp.147-170 1946


Plasticity: Cell lines, HeLa Cell line

Cell culture forensics by Stephen J. O'Brien Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702

Brendan P. Lucey, Walter A. Nelson-Rees and Grover M. Hutchins (2009) Henrietta Lacks, HeLa Cells, and Cell Culture Contamination. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine: September 2009, Vol. 133, No. 9, pp. 1463-1467.

Tissue engineering:

Tissue engineering by Langer R, Vacanti JP. In Science. 1993 May 14;260(5110):920-6.

The Techno-scientific Body:

A microfabricated array bioreactor for perfused 3D liver culture by Mark J. Powers1,2,†, Karel Domansky1,2, Mohammad R. Kaazempur-Mofrad1,3, Artemis Kalezi2,4, Adam Capitano1,2, Arpita Upadhyaya1,3, Petra Kurzawski1,2, Kathryn E. Wack1,2, Donna Beer Stolz5, Roger Kamm1,3, Linda G. Griffith, in Biotechnology and Bioengineering , volume 78, issue 3, 237-353, 2002

Self-assembled microdevices driven by muscle, Jianzhong Xi1, Jacob J. Schmidt1 & Carlo D. Montemagno1, in Nature Materials 4, 180 - 184 (2005)

Cell and Organ Printing 2: Fusion of Cell Aggregates in Three-Dimensional Gels:

THOMAS BOLAND,1* VLADIMIR MIRONOV,2 ANNA GUTOWSKA,3 ELISABETH. A. ROTH,1 AND ROGER R. MARKWALD2. The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary BiologyVolume 272A, Issue 2,

Possibilities for an in vitro meat production system by Datar, M. Betti Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies 11 (2010) 13–22

P.D. Edelman, D.C. McFarland, V.A. Mironov and J.G. Matheny. Tissue Engineering. May/June 2005, 11(5-6): 659-662. doi:10.1089/ten.2005.11.659. In vitro cultured meat production

Plasticity: Cell fusion, Regenerative medicine and Stem Cells:

Appendage Regeneration in Adult Vertebrates and Implications for Regenerative Medicine, Jeremy P. Brockes* and Anoop Kumar Science 23 December 2005:
Vol. 310 no. 5756 pp. 1919-1923

Soft Substrates Promote Homogeneous Self Renewal of Embryonic Stem Cells via Downregulating Cell-Matrix Tractions by Farhan Chowdhury1, Yanzhen Li2, Yeh-Chuin Poh1, Tamaki Yokohama-Tamaki2, Ning Wang1*, Tetsuya S. Tanaka2,3*

Living Differently in Time: Plasticity, Temporality, and Cellular Biotechnologies by Hannah Landecker in Culture Machine, Vol 7 (2005)

Semi living Art:

Creating the semi-living: on politics, aesthetics and the more-than-human by Deborah P Dixon. Transactions of the Institute of British GeographersVolume 34, Issue 4,

Towards a new class of being –The Extended Body by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr

Big Pigs, Small Wings: On Genohype and Artistic Autonomy by Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts in Culture Machine, Vol 7 (2005)

Aesthetics of Care Ed. Oron Catts ISBN: 1 74052 080 7


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