Art gets under the skin
A HOBART artist's work using human tissue has sent authorities into a spin.But Alicia King just wants people to debate the technology of biology.
Artist-in-residence at the University of Tasmania School of Medicine, King, 25, has grown a cell "membrane" over her sculptural forms, using a stock line of human tissue cells.
The uni's ethics committee has given her permission to use her own and consenting patients' discarded tissue.
The Royal Hobart Hospital has rejected her advances so King plans to use her skin cells.
Her Melbourne exhibition, which opens tonight, coincides with parliamentary stem cell legislation debate -- adding interest to her art.
"I use the cells over three-dimensional forms, it forms an outer membrane," said King, who is doing her PhD in fine art.
She uses a stock line of cells called He--La, fast-growing ones originally taken from a cervical cancer in 1951 and used in labs around the world.
Her work, which uses dyed-pink cell membranes, poses questions about what it means to be alive.
"That's what it's all about, about how we define ourselves as human," said King.
"I'm interested in issues like xenotransplantation, using animals to grow organs for humans. I think people should be part of the debate.
"It's about how we treat other living things and our relationship with them."
King says she has her own concerns about animal welfare, but not hard and fast rules.
She hopes to use discarded tissue, probably skin cancers.
"Tissue is already used for research, with consent, and then discarded. But I'll use my own anyway, taken off by a surgeon in a shave biopsy," she said.
RHH chief executive officer John Menzies said such use of tissue could not be approved.
"While we appreciate an artist's creative desire to use various and unusual materials in the creation of artworks, the Royal Hobart Hospital does not and can not authorise the use of human tissue or clinical waste for the purpose of or the use of such materials in art," he said.
King's work, called I'm growing to love you runs until September 24 at the Linden St Kilda Centre in Acland St.