Escaping the Dangers of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Bio Art

16.04.2019 | By ELENA LONGARI

Bio Design: For Ventura Future’s main focus of 2019 edition, the Tiger Penis Project suggests a new frontier of bio art that raises more questions. BioArt expert Kuang-Yi Ku suggests a possible solution to the risks related to traditional Chinese medicine.

My work “Tiger Penis Project” is about how to use design as a tool to combine traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and emerging biotechnologies all together to propose an alternative way of practicing TCM without doing harm on endangered animal.

I think it is reflecting the theme of “bio design” that show the audience how designer can deal with environmental issues by interweaving living things, technology and design. 

— Kuang-Yi Ku

Traditional Chinese Medicine is quickly rising in popularity in western countries, expanding its market by billions in the US. With what can be regarded as the fruitful spread of long-gone traditions –a phenomena we normally see in decline—it is legit to wonder about the possible concerns and threats mainstream Traditional Chinese Medicine can imply.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, the social designer, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate, as well as National Yang-Ming University dentistry graduate and communication design from Shih Chien University  graduate, has investigated the matter of how to suggest alternative substances to part of endangered animals used in TCM. These include rhinoceroses and tiger, but also of the antelope or buffalo, deer antlers, testicles and penis bone of the dog, and snake bile, considering there are tens of thousands of people interested in medical tourism in China and in European countries too, the matter deserves the attention these types of projects and platforms such as Milan Design Week can give, triggering a social debate.


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The project is a hybrid penis, made from hybridizing three animals by their different characteristics to create alternative medical means for sexual enhancement: the animals, octopus, oyster and tiger are believed to have properties of male virility enhancement in different cultures. Modelling is the first stage of the process, but genetic engineering is the science that could make this artefact a real possibility.

This new interpretation of Traditional Chinese Medicine suggested by the designer can actually add more questions than the solutions it finds to the problem: although the Tiger Penis project suggests a fictional scenario in which body parts from different animals are combined through biotechnologies, the re reality we are left with is the political debate that will appear once similar types of applying science have a chance of becoming reality.