[ISEA2006] Artist Talk: Elio Caccavale – Utility Pets: Science, Design and Hypothetical Products

Artist Statement

This presentation will explore how designers might participate in the scientific debate and in which areas science and design overlap. Utility Pets combine advances in biotechnology with current trends in pet ownership, providing a context for thinking about the complex array of biotechnology that might affect our lives.

Abstract

This presentation will explore how designers might participate in the scientific debate and in which areas science and design overlap. The specific science addressed in the Utility Pets project is xenotransplantation (inter-species transplant). Transgenic genetically modified pigs are used in xenotransplantation. The goal is too create a living production line of partially humanised pig organs to use as spare parts for the human body. Emotional and material considerations are important in our relationship with animals, just as they are with people. However, sometimes these consideration provoke conflict. The wired and wonderful ways in which human beings have sought to resolve such conflict provide the central theme of the Utility Pets project.

Perhaps the medium of design can offer a platform that lies somewhere between reality and fiction where we can freely discuss how we were, how we are and how we will be. In other words, the project wants to explore biofutures before they happen and stimulate the public to develop an understanding that enables them to deal, not only with applications of biotechnology, but with the social development of biotechnological knowledge.

The narrative process provides a context for thinking about the complex array of biotechnology that might affect our lives. Starting with a series of “What if” stories, each with a different name, the process gives the public a common language for talking about biotechnology. It then encourages the public to think about each story as if it had already come to pass. “Suppose that your life could be saved by a pig, what would happen to you and the pig?”

  • Elio Caccavale, London, UK.┬áMA in Design Products from the Royal College of Art London, commercial consultant, Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, researcher, writer, recipient of a Sciart Welcome Trust award.