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.
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
Vlasman develops OSCAR in his independent laboratory run by IT specialists, biologists and designers.
DONATING BLOOD TO OSCAR
To provide Oscar with the right nutrition and protection against outside influences such as bacteria and viruses, Cornelis Vlasman frequently donates blood.
BUILDING THE HEART MODULE
Oscar’s heart is fitted with a skeleton, a network of veins and skin.
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.
Concept, Director, Animator:
Eva Haak Wegmann
Krista te Brake
Joost van Dijke
Koert van Mensvoort
Jos de Mul
Ellen ter Gast
Caitlin Rose Williams
Shireen van Dorp
Martje van Wijk
Laura van Eeden
Karel van Laere
Ellen ter Gast
Rathenau Instituut – Dirk Stemerding, Virgil Rerimassie
Ellen ter Gast
Taal & Teken Leo Reijnen
Ellen ter Gast
Next Nature Network
Joris van Ballegooijen
Arno van Roosmalen
TU Delft – Pieter Jonker
Animation and Compositing:
Adriaan van Veldhuizen
Director of Photography:
Reinier van Brummelen
Stef van Wijk
Diego van Uden
Wiebe de Boer
Anko de Graaff
Interface Design and Concept:
Interface Design and Programming:
Machinefabriek – Rutger Zuydervelt
Online Media Strategy:
Commissioning Editor VPRO:
This production is supported by:
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie
STROOM Den Haag
© 2016 seriousFilm – VPRO