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The Modular Body

An online science fiction story

The Modular Body is an online science fiction story by Floris Kaayk about the creation of OSCAR, a living organism built from human cells. Its inventor is Cornelis Vlasman, a versatile and innovative biologist. Together with a like-minded team of professionals, he starts an independent laboratory in which he experiments with organic materials.

What is OSCAR?

After years of hard work, Vlasman’s team succeeds in creating new life from cells taken from his own body. Under his supervision the world’s first living organism has been built. Its name is OSCAR.

OSCAR is a prototype, the size of a human hand, consisting of clickable organ modules grown from human cells.

What makes OSCAR special is the concept behind the organism. Normally human life can be regarded as a closed system, but with OSCAR life is approached as a modular system. This could lead to innovative solutions and useful applications. The modular body could be employed for medical testing, but also for research, for instance to study the long-term and short-term effects of extreme conditions in space travel.

Visit the Modular Body website

Meet OSCAR

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The official presentation of OSCAR, the living organism created with modern biotechnology and designed to have interchangeable limbs, spare-lungs and an electronic brain. In a near future where the body is not a closed circuit but a modular life-form, OSCAR challenges us to divide between the natural and the artificial.

The anatomy of a Modular Body

With the organism OSCAR, Vlasman demonstrates that it is possible to create modular life. Stem cells can be reprogrammed, grown and printed as any type of human tissue. The line separating humans from machines is gradually becoming thinner. What if this modular organism could be the model for a modular human body?

The birth of OSCAR in four steps

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A Tour of the Lab

Vlasman develops OSCAR in his independent laboratory run by IT specialists, biologists and designers.

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Building the Heart Module

OSCAR’s heart is fitted with a skeleton, a network of veins and skin.

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Donating Blood for OSCAR

To provide OSCAR with the right nutrition and protection against outside influences such as bacteria and viruses, Cornelis Vlasman frequently donates blood.

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OSCAR’s Radiology Check

In order to check the modules internal functioning, a radiologist has been asked to clearly visualize OSCAR’s various functions. The heart module, lung module and limb modules are successfully linked.

What is life?

The definition of life differs for each discipline. In fields like biology or philosophy the description of life as a concept is not the same. In biology a list of qualities is used to indicate when we may speak of life. These are sometimes called vital functions.

There are multiple scientific theories about the origins of life, not to mention many great narratives of Creation. Until now, we have not been able to create artificial life. Our knowledge and understanding of the constitutive parts and substances and their interaction within an organism is not yet sufficient.

Is OSCAR immortal?

OSCAR is kept alive with blood taken from Vlasman and is continually vaccinated against infections, as it has no immune system. When it turns out that the growth process of dividing cells is hard to control, Vlasman’s creations bring about an intolerable situation.

By using replaceable modules, Vlasman succeeds in keeping OSCAR’s body functions operating relatively long, but eventually he realizes that he has no choice but to end the life of his own creations. The story refers to various similar narratives in world literature and film history, notably Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Credits

  • Concept & Research

    Concept, Director, Animator: Floris Kaayk
    Research, Script: Floris Kaayk, Ine Poppe
    Concept Development: Floris Kaayk, Ellen ter Gast, Ine Poppe, Tamar Stelling, Marc Thelosen
    Line Producer: Eva Haak Wegmann, Krista te Brake
    Biology Consultancy: Ellen ter Gast, Rathenau Instituut – Dirk Stemerding, Virgil Rerimassie, Thomas Landrain

  • Cast

    Cast: Alexandre Motta, Joost van Dijke, Leon Spek, Nanda Milbreta, Koert van Mensvoort, Jos de Mul, Ellen ter Gast, Nadine Bongaerts, Virgil Rerimassie, Caitlin Rose Williams, Marcel Kerkmans, Tamar Stelling, Florian Cramer, Graham Smith
    Extra: Ton Roeke, Gijs Schuurhuis, Shireen van Dorp, Bertus Gerssen, Tamar Stelling, Jasper Wennekendonk, Martje van Wijk, Diederik Weyschede, Mark Groeneveld, Maarten Schenkeveld, Jeroen Funke, Laura van Eeden, Karel van Laere

  • Production

    Animation and Compositing: Adriaan van Veldhuizen
    Set Building: Sjors Heijs, Bart Appels
    Director of Photography: Reinier van Brummelen, Stefan Warmenhoven
    Camera Assistant: Stef van Wijk
    Sound: Diego van Uden
    Editing Talkshow: Ralf Verbeek
    Editing Trailer: Patrick Louwerse
    Sound Design: Wiebe de Boer
    Microscopy Footage: Hubrecht Institute, Anko de Graaff, Timo Kuijt, Roberto Magliozzi, Pieterjan Dierickx
    Online Interface: LUSTlab
    Interface Design and Concept: Floris Kaayk
    Graphic Design: Viola Bernacchi
    Interface Design and Programming: Jakob Schlötter
    Music: Machinefabriek – Rutger Zuydervelt
    Translation Consultancy: Pepijn Vlasman, Sam Nemeth, Ellen ter Gast
    Other Translations: Taal & Teken Leo Reijnen

  • Partners

    Project Partners: Next Nature Network, LUSTlab
    With Gratitude: de Electriciteitsfabriek, Syb Groeneveld, Joris van Ballegooijen, Joke Ballintijn, Arno van Roosmalen, TU Delft – Pieter Jonker
    Online Media Strategy: Nienke Huitenga
    Production VPRO: Mariska Schneider
    Commissioning Editor VPRO: Geert-Jan Bogaerts
    Producer: Marc Thelosen

    This production is supported by: VPRO digitaal, Mediafonds, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Fonds 21, STROOM Den Haag

    © 2016 seriousFilm – VPRO

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