Epidermic Hyperplasia

John Becker (website), Sofia Krimizi
Columbia University GSAPP
Advanced Studio
Faculty: Francois Roche (website)


We are all contained in our skin. We are contained in a vessel that is generated by our bodies as a defense mechanism. Your skin is a living mortal vessel. The point of departure comes from the semi-living condition of the artificially produced epidermis. The epithelial tissue is located in the middle of the hierarchy between the cell and the organ tending to perform more like the one or the other along the different stages of its growth.

We understand the skin engineering culture as an attempt to create an animate but not alive fraction of a body, coming from the body’s genetic information but reversibly detached from it. Biologically, the process of the skin engineering: a synthetic polymer substratum [ PGA, P4HB] performs as the host for the stem cells that will initiate the skin culture. This PGA scaffold is responsible to provide cell support, cell attachment, supply growth nutrients and drugs, provide structure and form. Cells can and do grow three dimensionally, so the geometry of the scaffolding has to create the anatomic site for the cell lines to grow, attach to each other and finally produce a continuous epidermic tissue. The growth of the skin is interwoven with the degradation of the scaffolding material. The epithelial cells hook on the body of the scaffolding absorbing the nutrients that are delivered through the system concluding to its slow dematerialization.

This parasitic relationship between the growing tissue and its host, holds a direct analogy between the proliferation of the skin cells and the disintegration of the synthetic matter. This dual system reaches its apex the exact same moment that it destroys the viability of the scaffolding that provided the circumstances for this dual system to exist in the first place.

In a scale large enough to include a human body we assign a trajectory, or most likely behavior to a 3D printing device able to construct the PGA web and simultaneously seed the primal cells in the synthetic host. The march of the printing machine materializes the arrow of time, from the birth, to the growth, the adolescence, and the necrosis. The balance of the system lays between the struggle of the living matter to survive intrinsically resulting in the acceleration its death. The live and death instincts, eros and thanatos create but simultaneously disintegrate this spatial narrative.

The printing device doesn’t really produce a design, its performance appears more like a tick- Tourette syndrome repeating the same action over and over. An unintended fidgety limp behavior retraces in its inbuilt amplitude the sequence of a vertically arrayed field of points. Similar devices, the punitive apparatus in Kafka’s Penal Colony and the Bachelor Machine (later the Large Glass) by Marcel Duchamp perform in a dual parallel manner.

In our case this performative machine operates as an extension of the body fluids of its occupant. To walk following the printing device is to experience the biome of being in our selves. To experience an offset of the skin that touches us but from the inside. The cellular matrix of the occupant. Constant state of death. The residuum of the passage of the machine. Dangerosity of a living organism. To create dying life. Injecting genetic information into the scaffolding. We understand the constructed materiality of our scenario the entropy between what is generated and what is dying. Extended apparition of the body’s envelope. The human membrane, the membrane that contains and protects us is being extended beyond the scope of the body.


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