Cheese already has a nose-wrinkling reputation when it comes to aroma, so imagine a fromage freshly made from a foot, or matured from the stinky sweat of an aromatic armpit.
That’s exactly what American scientist Christina Agapakis and Norwegian scent expert Sissel Tolaas have done as part of an exhibition about synthetic biology in Dublin.
Together with chef Michael Pollan, they took bacteria from curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s nose, a sample from Eliasson's tears and dug out a culture from Pollan's belly button.
They then made the cheese, 11 in total, which according to Agapakis actually smell and taste like the body odour of the donor.
She told design magazine Dezeen: “It's no surprise that sometimes cheese odours and body odours are similar,” she explained. “But when we started working together we were surprised by how not only do cheese and smelly body parts like feet share similar odour molecules but also have similar microbial populations.”
The project is called ‘SelfMade’ and hopes to highlight the human body as a superorganism and how our food can host living organisms too. By drawing out our curious response to human cheese, it also wants to underline the notions of self and other, and of health and disease and of engineered organisms.
The exhibition is being held at the Science Gallery in Dublin. A statement from the artist on the website reads: “We not only live in a biological world surrounded by rich communities of microorganisms, but in a cultural world that emphasises total antisepsis. 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.“
The Grow Your Own - Life After Nature is open until 19 January 2014. Based on the potentially ground-breaking applications and uncertain implications of synthetic life of the future, the exhibition also features 3D printed heads based on the stolen DNA of Dublin smokers and a project proposing future humans giving birth to dolphins.