The idea came to scientist Christina Agapakis and her colleague Sissel Tolaas, a scent expert, after contemplating the nature of human beings and their individual scents. To capture and exhibit what they saw as a disparity between how people view the microbes normally used to make cheese and the microbes found naturally on the human body, the two decided to simply combine the two.
So they pulled out some sterile cotton swabs and began to collect samples from a variety of unique individuals, including artists, scientists, anthropologists and even cheese makers. They then took these samples and crafted an entire selection of smelly cheeses, which were recently features in their own exhibit at the Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland.
"Like the human body, each cheese has a unique set of microbes that metabolically shape a unique odor," explained the artists about the methodology of their work. "Cheese odors were sampled and characterized using headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis, a technique used to identify and/or quantify volatile organic compounds present in a sample."
Since cheeses tend to take on the unique odors of the microbes used to make them, Agapakis and Tolaas had hoped to essentially mimic this process using human microbes. And they were successful, having created an entire line of cheeses that now serve as literal manifestations of the humans from which they were derived.
"It's no surprise that sometimes cheese odors and body odors are similar," stated Agapakis to Dezeen maagzine. "But when we started working together, we were surprised by how not only do cheese and smelly body parts like feet share similar odor molecules but also have similar microbial populations."
Human cheese meant to illustrate unique relationship between our bodies and bacteria
The two scientists reportedly held a wine and cheese pairing event not too long ago that featured the cheeses -- no, guests did not actually eat the human ones, but they were allowed to take a whiff. Some found the concept interesting, while others noted that the cheeses were nauseating and "gross." But Agapakis' goal was never to make the cheeses palatable, instead hoping to initiate a conversation about the relationship between our bodies and our bacteria.
"Despite [their] chemical and biological similarities, there are obviously very different cultural and emotional responses to stinky cheese and stinky feet," she added to Dezeen. "By making cheese directly from the microbes on the body, we want to highlight these bacterial connections as well as to question and potentially expand the role of both odors and microbes in our lives."
The human cheese display, which is part of the Science Gallery's "Grow Your Own... Life After Nature" exhibit, will be available for viewing at the gallery until January 19, 2014. You can learn more by visiting:
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