We’ve heard of making cheese from human breast milk, but now researchers are turning the tears from artist Olafur Eliasson into cheese as well. Giving the saying “don’t cry over spilled milk” a whole new meaning, the researchers behind Selfmade are transforming bacteria from the skin and tears of a list of artists, scientists and anthropologists into eleven artisanal cheeses. The arty cheeses were made as a part of an exhibition about synthetic biology that is currently on display at the Dublin Science Gallery.
The Selfmade cheeses were developed by American scientist Christina Agapakis and Norwegian scent expert Sissel Tolaas, who collected bacterial specimens from various parts of the human body to create this bizarre fusion of science and art. In addition to Eliasson’s tears, the pair collected bacteria from renowned curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s nose, microbilogist Ben Wolfe’s toes and chef Michael Pollan’s belly button. The bacteria samples were obtained on sterile cotton swabs, then sent to a laboratory, where they were added to milk just as any bacteria used in the cheese making process.
Each of the cheeses smell and taste like the body odor of the bacteria’s donor, making for a particularly creepy offering of flavors. The cheeses themselves are not meant to be eaten; instead they reveal a direct relationship between bacteria living on our bodies and present in our food. Through experiments like Selfmade, researchers demonstrate how bacteria can be manipulated to create synthetic microbes, and push the limits of future bacterial cultures.