November 28, 2013
Six Degrees Of Soylent Green
I love cheese. I’ve found very few cheeses in this world that don’t make me happy. I eat everything from American sliced cheese to raw milk goat Chevre to baked brie. But I think I have finally discovered a cheese I will NOT eat.
Some of those cheeses have rather strong smells that may remind you of an unwashed armpit, or an athlete’s foot after a workout. These new cheeses just might prove you right.
Scientist Christina Agapakis collaborated with scent expert Sissel Tolaas to create “Selfmade,” a “science-savvy art experiment,” according to the Huffington Post. Selfmade created 11 cheeses from the bacteria found on the human body. They used some rather well known bodies, actually, including Michael Pollan and Olafur Eliasson. The list of donors includes artists, scientists and anthropologists who donated tears, belly button lint, armpit scrapings, foot cheese and nose scrapings.
I honestly think I might puke.
Each cheese was created from starter cultures of the human donor’s skin. The resulting cheeses have very unique scents, according to the Daily Mail.
“By making cheese directly from the microbes on the body, we want to highlight these bacterial connections as well as to question and potentially expand the role of both odors and microbes in our lives,” said Agapakis.
Thankfully, these cheeses were not meant to be eaten. They were a series of “microbial sketches, portraits reflecting an individual’s microbial landscape in a unique cheese.”
The artists’ state, on the project website: “We not only live in a biological world surrounded by rich communities of microorganisms, but in a cultural world that emphasizes total antisepsis. The intersection of our interests in smell and microbial communities led us to focus on cheese as a ‘model organism.’ Many of the stinkiest cheeses are hosts to species of bacteria closely related to the bacteria responsible for the characteristic smells of human armpits or feet. Can knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve tolerance of the bacteria on our bodies? How do humans cultivate and value bacterial cultures on cheeses and fermented foods? How will synthetic biology change with a better understanding of how species of bacteria work together in nature as opposed to the pure cultures of the lab?”
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