Eliasson and Obrist: now available as cheese

Microorganisms recovered from these two artworld luminaries have been cultured into a cheese

Fancy something to eat? How about a piece of cheese grown from bacteria found on the world famous artist, Olafur Eliasson? No? Well, you can also try some made from microbes swabbed from the international curator and writer, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and the chef Michael Pollen.

This might sound unappetizing, yet these cheeses have been produced by the Norwegian scent professional, Sissel Tolaas and the American scientist, Christina Agapakis, as part of Dublin's Science Gallery's Grow Your Own exhibition of synthetic biology.


Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson

"We are presenting a set of cheeses made using bacteria from the human body," Agapakis told Dezeen about their project, Self Made. "Everybody has a unique and diverse set of bacteria living on their skin that can be amplified using techniques from microbiology and grown directly in milk to form and flavour each cheese."

Eliasson's bacteria were found in his tears; Obrist's were in his nose; Pollan's were swabbed from his belly button. This isn't the first time food manufacturing has turned intentionally to a human source for its microbial cultures. The American Rogue brewery is currently offering a Beard Beer, brewed using a yeast taken from their brewmaster John Maier's beard.


Hans Ulrich Obrist
Hans Ulrich Obrist

While the Obrist and Eliasson cheeses haven't gone into production, Tolaas and Agapakis hope their cheese will encourage us to ponder such questions as "How do humans cultivate and value bacterial cultures on cheeses and fermented foods?" And "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?" We wish them luck with that one.

For greater insight into the kind of changes that the future might bring to our food chain, take a look at The World We Made. For a more straightforward way to take in Eliasson and Obrist, consider our Eliasson monograph, and one of the many books Obrist has contributed to. Buy them from the people who made them, here.



Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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