An Artist In Liverpool Is Working to Grow A Soccer Ball From The Cells Of A Pig’s Bladder

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Written By Chris Azzopardi

This is quite possibly the weirdest thing we’ve ever posted to KCKRS. Artist John O’Shea, currently in residence at the University of Liverpool’s Clinical Engineering department, is working on a unique and slightly stomach-turning project: bio-engineering a football from the cells of a pig bladder.

“How is this art?” you’re probably asking yourself.

Well, by definition, art serves no practical, utile purpose. And since a football grown from pig bladder cells probably isn’t going to be playable in any normal way, this project is most definitely art. Also, social commentary.

Pigs Bladder Football launched one year ago by setting out a remarkable challenge: By August 2012, artist John O’Shea would culture the world’s first bio-engineered football, grown from living cells.

For six months now he has been artist in residence at the University of Liverpool’s Clinical Engineering Unit, collaborating with Prof John Hunt and Theun Van Veen and developing his own bespoke protocols for harvesting animal tissue. Through biological experimentation, rapid prototyping and an iterative design process, this work has been an exercise of precise tissue engineering.

The final ball, which will produced by replicating the same techniques used to create artificial human organs, encourages us to consider the role life sciences will have in our daily lives today and in the future. It is also a reference to the colliding worlds of human enhancement, the bio-technology industry and the global capitalization of sport, which have become highly contested areas.

The project’s scope has actually been much more than just the bio-engineered football, including workshops on making balls from an actual pig’s bladder. The aim is to explore the history of the game through the materials used to create the ball. The bio-engineered ball is simply the 21st century manifestation of a process that originated in the 19th century.

Here’s video of a workshop in which attendees attempted to make a ball from a pig bladder.

Via the same techniques used to grow artificial human organs, the cells will form around printed 3D polymers that will break down, leaving behind just the artificial ball made of living cells.


The project was commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices, a Northwest art festival that aims to push the boundaries of the audience experience. O’Shea will debut the finished pig’s bladder football at the event in Manchester from August 30th to September 7th.

Pig’s Bladder Football via Inhabitat

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