SuperMammal™ Dissected : Towards a Phenomenology for a New Species

Pinar Yoldas

Duke University


“Speculative Biologies” suggests new tissues, new organs and new bodies that exist beyond the binary definition of sex as male and female. “Speculative Biologies” are fictitious, they are designed to stimulate our biological imagination, they are designed to challenge the anatomical norms around sex and gender. They are designed to liquidate all conventions to open up space for new life. “Speculative Biologies” is the umbrella term given to a plethora of sculptural pieces that particularly deal with biology, excess and the future among many other issues. In this essay I will kindly take you on a journey to discover one phylum of Speculative Biologies. I will explore their perverted anatomies and the conceptual habitat they thrive in. There are mainly three species I will be explicating : Neolabium™ , SuperMammal™ and PolyPhallii™. I will try to give you a quick overview of their anatomical and physiological properties and how these give birth to the conceptual.

About eighty percent of the female reproductive system is hidden deep inside the body. The vulva, on the other hand, extends outside the body. Unlike the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries and the uterus, this external physical manifestation of female sex has no direct function that serves reproduction. Historically, the vulva has been thought to be analogous to the penis, following a one to one correspondence of clitoris to the glans, labia to testicles and so on. But unlike the DNA delivery organ penis, whose primary responsibility is the transmission of semen to the eggs, the vulva does not really do much in terms of helping, alleviating, aiding conception other than making sexual intercourse a pleasurable act. Of all the substructures of vulva, labia majora, labia minora and clitoris are the most well-known, possibly due to their visibility. Labia majora is the most visible located right under the mons pubis, an abdominal layer of fat tissue.

Labia minora is generally concealed by labia majora, but its size and shape varies from person to person and it can as well be a visual component of the female genitalia. Labia minora and majora both have sweat glands and nerve endings, yet minora has no hair follicles and hosts more nerves than majora does. Labium are generally considered to be the double lips that guard the vagina. Clitoris compared to labium is a subterranean structure most of which is not visible from outside the body except glans clitoris. The glans is typically the size of a pea and has more nerve endings than any other part of the human body including the highly sensitive lips, tongue and the fingertips. This extreme cutaneous sensitivity easily makes clitoris the seat of sexual pleasure for the female body. Again exceptions to clitoral morphology are common, clitomegaly for instance is a condition where the organ grows three or four times larger, acquiring a highly distinctive look among the visual components of the genital kit. In most cases, baby girls with clitomegaly are sent to the operating room right after birth, to diminish the size of the organ for completely aesthetic reasons. In the United States only, more than 200 infants are subject to clitoral plastic surgery every year. [1] Aesthetics of sexuality does not allow a female pleasure organ to compete with the profile of a penis.

The vulva after all is a locus of sexual pleasure and does not directly contribute to conception, insemination, or reproduction. Due to the diminished reproductive role of vulva and its parts, its partial or complete removal does not effect a female’s fecundity.

Originally a tissue-engineering artifact, a neo-organ is an artificial organ, [2] grown ex vivo on a predesigned matrix scaffold. Since the nineties, a number of neo-tissues and neo-organs such as artificial muscle tissue, artificial bone tissue or artificial ear have been developed. Yet the main inspiration for NeoLabium™ comes from the artists/researchers Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts who have been the first to openly approach tissue engineering as an artform. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari claim that art creates sensations. According to perhaps the most controversial thinkers of the 20th century, art is the intensification of senses. NeoLabium™ approaches tissue engineering as Deleuzian aesthetics at a cellular level. The primary goal of NeoLabium™ is to multiply, intensify and purify sensation. On top of the 8000 nerve endings a healthy glans clitoris is endowed with, Neolabium™ has an additional 8000 more. [3] Between labia minora and labia majora NeoLabium™ holds Labia Synthetica™, an enhanced labia that has more than 3000 nerve endings. The cutaneous substructures of Labia Synthetica™ carries sophisticated nerve receptors that are designed to cretae a sensation of pure pleasure. The number of Meissner’s corpuscles, end bulbs of Krause, Ruffini corpuscles, Pacinian corpuscles, Golgi-Mazzoni corpuscles, Vater-Pacinian corpuscles, genital bodies and Merkel’s disks are all multiplied by hundreds. With all its revamped pleasure production capabilities, NeoLabium™ is a necessary update to the female anatomy. In a world where sexual pleasure is denied to women under the name of religion, tradition or law the amplified pleasure toolkit of NeoLabium™ is a weapon. The increased enervation of NeoLabium™ is a form of empowerment. Compared to the average female genitalia, NeoLabium™ offers a more accentuated look. The organ’s multiple labia synthetica, together with the whisker-like extensions that stimulate the clitoris give NeoLabium™ a distinctive visual profile. NeoLabium™ amply dictates a raw visibility of sexuality that cannot be hidden behind layers of fabric. The organ is designed to be highly noticeable, detectable and discernible. Neolabium™, is like the face. It is a bodily surface that is always on display, a surface that cannot be dismissed scotopically. [4]

Neolabium™ is an organ that connects to the brain to irreversibly transform it at a synaptic level. The organ interfaces with the rest of the body from the upper part of the lumber plexus. For instance vagus nerve can be connected to the neo-organ to allow afferent and efferent transaction between the central nervous system and the organ. [5] The increased sensitivity of the organ is meant to trigger a cascade of transformations in the owner’s somatosensory cortex as well as other areas of the brain. Evolutionarily NeoLabium™ is a female organ, yet its final destination is not limited to a female body. NeoLabium™ may as well be added to an XY body, an XXX body or an XYY body. Its systemic detachment from reproduction grants Neolabium™ a rare biological modularity. Independent of the biological sex of the hosting body, NeoLabium™ is plug and play. Its modularity allows a vast array of interesting combinations and permutations. For instance a biologically male brain after the implantation of NeoLabium™, would enter synaptogenesis under the influence of a conventionally female sex organ.


Most of us suckled on breasts at some point in our lives. Not surprisingly, in the great kingdom of Animalia the class homo sapiens belongs to is called Mammalia, literally meaning “of the breast.” It is worth noting that the highly prolific Swedish taxonomist, the information architect of life, the father of modern biological classification Carolus Linnaeus, seems to have chosen to crown the breast of all the four characteristics us mammals generously share. Mammals are hairy, mammals have hollow ears, mammals have mammary glands and a neocortex. Apparently for Linneaus animality won over rationality, the namesake of Mammalia is the mammary gland not the neocortex.

A mammary gland is a modified apocrine sweat gland, milk is highly enriched sweat and breasts are circular protrusions of skin filled with mammary glands and fat. When prolactin, [6] starts circulating in the bloodstream of the female body, breasts start the production and secretion of milk from the nipples. However, breast tissue is not limited to the female body only, both sexes have two parallel milk ridges that extend from the armpits down to the groin. On a female body the milk ridges respond to androgens in order to develop breasts through adolescence. These primordial mammalian structures are almost like on / off switches for milk distributed on an invisible grid, turned on depending on the species specific genetic information. Primates, goat, sheep, and guinea pigs have 2 teats, cattle have 4, cats 8, mice 10, and rats 12. [7]

The maximum number of teats observed in Mammalia thus far is 18 in pigs. Odd numbers of breasts are incredibly rare in nature (such as the Virginia opossum with 13 teats), but abundant in mythology. Amazons, the all female tribe from Anatolia, have one breast, after cutting the other one off to enhance their war skills. Diana of Ephesus has 9 (sometimes 19 or more). Artemis who may or may not be the same goddess as Diana again has 21. With the exception of Amazons who chose to donate one breast to artillery, the many-breasted mythological figures from across different geographies all share one superpower in common, they are goddesses of fecundity, deities of fertility. Emphasizing the connection between breasts and life, accessory breasts are a symbol of fertility, of the womb and of the soil.

Although sprouting extra breasts seem to be more widespread in mythology and fiction, there are real women (and men) with extra nipples or breasts that grow alongside their milk ridges. These are called supernumerary nipples. Whether mythology was inspired by this natural occurrence of supernumerary nipples remains a mystery, that an excess of breasts is quite favorable universally is crystal clear. This mammary excess can take on different cultural and physical forms. Multiplying the number of breasts is the more hellenic, historical, mythological form, whereas increasing the size of the breast is a more contemporary purely aesthetic form. Let’s take American culture’s unusual infatuation with the large bosom for instance. The proliferation of mammoplasty techniques and the increasing number of women who happily sign up for being test subjects for these surgical experiments on the female bust is solid proof that the inflated breast is the aesthetic currency for the sexualized body . The perfectly hemispheric big breasts are an invention, an ideal Platonic form far from what’s available naturally. The invented breast is no more than an aesthetic accessory, located somewhere between a reproductive fitness indicator and the red lipstick. Could there be a connection between excessive consumerism and excessive boobism? Could it be that the motto of unsustainable consumerism “bigger, better, faster, more” manifesting itself in the surgically altered breast? Is the contemporary aesthetics of the breast an aesthetics of excess? These questions are necessary to understand the etiology of SuperMammal™. SuperMammal™ is the anatomical result of glandular excess multiplied by aesthetic excess. SuperMammal™ has luscious, swollen, perfectly semicircular breasts grafted on two different body plans , the linear serpent-like SuperMammal™ and the radial one which closely resembles an oversized bunch of grapes. One breast is the Amazons sworn to fight men. Two breasts, the default mode, is the erotic, normative, sexual, ordinary, inviting. 9 , 19 or 21 breasts is the fertility goddess, fecundity of the earth. What about 100, 1000, or 10000 breasts in one body? If we listen to evolutionary anthropologists the formal qualities of the breast (shape, number, size, fullness,color etc.) convey significant information about the fertility of the owner of the breast. But there’s no direct positive correlation between the form of the breast and its owner’s reproductive success. The real, actual, healthy breast is the one that is capable of producing milk and supplying 50 plus ingredients to the baby desperate for this postpartum feast. At the end of the day, the hungry baby does not care whether her mother has enormous milk factories sculpted after Pamela Anderson’s or not. The cultural form of the breast is the result of our cultural excesses and it is as pliable, malleable and soft as the breast itself.

The breast is a cultural symbol of desire and SuperMammal™ plays with this symbol indefinitely. When the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian started his series of abstractions in tandem with the birth of cubism, his primary goal was to find the true essence of painting. [8] If he was painting a tree he had to excavate the treeness, eliminating any unnecessary lines, colors, shapes from his canvas. Abstraction to Mondrian was distilling the core of the image. In his famous series Gray Tree, one can trace how he peels away color and form in each step, to reach the perceptual and emotional core of the tree. SuperMammal™ utilizes a similar aesthetic strategy by removing all the unnecessary parts from the body: feet, legs, genitals, groin, abdomen, arms, hands, neck, head, the face, the lips and most importantly the eyes are all eradicated. There’s no need for distractions, no need for semiotic noise. Every single body part potentially conveys a message that would interfere with the breasts’ soft-spoken “look at me, touch me.”

In the iconography of desire, there’s a hierarchy of meaning. Breasts are at the apex of this pyramid of cultural symbols, as well as atomic units of eroticism. If abstraction is the lingua franca of modernism, can multiplication be the same for consumerist industrialism? The lingua franca of consumerism possibly has a wider a range of methods than multiplication, nevertheless excess and multiplication are interlinked concepts and SuperMammal™ dwells on this covalent bond. Regardless of the methodology followed in its creation, SuperMammal™ is an aesthetic experiment in the semiotics of desire and sexuality.

Primordial Meaning

In 2001, Robert Solso of University of San Diego California, published his paper that brought together Edward Manet’s famous painting Olympia and gaze tracking for the first time. [9] There were two groups of test subjects: experts (art critics, artists, art students) and art neophytes who never heard of neither Manet nor how controversial Olympia had been back in its day. Olympia is a high profile ‘fille de joie,’ who is depicted by Manet as comfortably leaned against a pillow on a silk covered ottoman, wearing nothing but a necklace, her black helper holding a bouquet of fruits in the background. Using gaze-tracking methods, he revealed that the expert group spent more time on the details and looked at more points in the painting whereas the neophytes’ saccadic eye movements didn’t cover as much surface on the painting. The only commonality in both groups is that their gaze immediately visited the face, the breasts and the genitalia independent of the subject’s expertise on art. Solso’s experiment elegantly shows that in the economy of attention and perception, the face and the erotic parts have more currency. Another study on the subject comes from Duke University. In 2005 Platt et al showed that male macaques would be willing to sacrifice fruit juice to look at the hindquarters of female macaques but not for landscapes or faces of lower ranking fellow macaques. [10] Although it may be a good thing to ask science for some guidance (or in Deleuzian speak, creating facts to frame chaos) from time to time, we do not need scientists to tell us that porn exists.

Yet these two studies show that certain representations have more weight on our attentional and perceptual networks than others. Within a given time our nervous system can only pick so many details about a scene, yet if the scene presented has a banana, an iPad retina display and bare breasts in it, depending on how simian we are, or what kind of species we belong to, one of the three will pique more interest, grab more attention and will be more likely to be encoded for long term storage later on. Of course how meaning is generated in the brain is a nebulous, tortuous, nervous mess and any claim in this field need to be tested if it can be tested. SuperMammal™ is primarily inspired by Solso’s findings. Art experts, with their eyes trained in looking, were able to cover more of the painting, possibly gaining more information than art novices in a given period of time. Yet both groups independent of their background, responded to faces and the sexual organs in the same way. It is as if the extra education, experience, and training in the arts gave the expert group an edge, the ability to go beyond the primordial, in other words, to traverse the “rest” of the composition other than the elements’ such as the face and the genitalia that carry an anthropomorphic importance. SuperMammal™ doesn’t care about the “rest,” it is about “the primordial.” PolyPhallus™ (aka MegaMale™) is quite akin to SuperMammal™ , specifically in its bodily organization. It is one organ, in this case, the penis, isolated, detached then multiplied until a semantic threshold is reached. Just like a sound barrier breaking at 340 ms, PolyPhallus™ attempts to break the “meaning barrier” around the organ, symbol and concept: “the penis.”

Like SuperMammal™, PolyPhallii™ aims to pick a semiotically heavy organ and play with it. The result is a hundred, thousand, million penises dancing a spastic dance of cremaster.

PolyPhallii™ has a very limited behavioral repertoire that only consists of erection and ejaculation. When PolyPhallii™ ejaculates in sync, it is a thunderstorm of artificial semen, shooting out to the sky staining its immediate environment with awe and satisfaction.

Biological Arts and Speculative Biologies

Artists have a yen for digging out the unexplored or taking the unbeaten path despite the risk of getting lost. When computing was taking its very first baby steps in the 1960s, artists were there. Artists were the first to approach television, radio, computer and computer networks, holograms, virtual reality, gaming and mobile devices as creative media. Hence the term “new media,” which quickly grew obsolete shortly after it was granted its language by Lev Manovich. In the 90s artists started fooling around with “wet media”, the medium of all media, the wet media, the cell, as wet as its cytoplasm. Today this new strain in the arts has its own petri dish, its own categorical niche, its own room in the same house with her elder brother “media arts.” According to Eduardo Kac, the mastermind behind world’s first and most effective advertising campaign for a glow-in-the-dark bunny, for an artwork to be counted as “bioart,” it has to have living tissue in it. [11] But, the term Biological Arts, invented and popularized by Catts& Zurr, is more expansive. Works that explore the changing definition of life, nature and the natural as well as projects that take place in the lab setting with or without living tissue are all welcome. [12] The writer has reason to think Kac’s approach is hegemonist, hence we will use Biological Arts instead of BioArt although the second is longer and harder to type.

In a caricatured version of the taxonomy of the arts, media arts would be an adolescent teenage boy, a natural born hacker and a fantastic gamer that would make Jane McGonigal proud, his pubescent face breaking out due to excessive masturbation, energy drinks and lack of human touch. Biological Arts would be the younger sister, bio-curious, science-minded, the kind of grandchildren Freeman Dyson would like to have.

In his seminal essay “Our Biotech Future” visionary thinker Mr.Dyson, most well known for his work in theoretical physics and mathematics, claims that 21st century will be the century of biology. [13] This is an unconventional claim as from Aristoteles on the convention has been to rank biology at the bottom of the hierarchy of scientific importance, mathematics taking the crown, followed by physics, followed by chemistry. Digital revolution once freed from the hegemony of large corporations has produced personal computing which became ubiquitous and largely accessible by public. Dyson believes that biotechnology can follow a similar trajectory as personal computing. According to Dyson, simply by remaining small and domesticated, biotechnology has the potential to turn into the next big technological movement of the century. Designing genomes, he says, will be a personal thing, “a new art form as creative as painting or sculpture.” [14] Biological Arts is Dyson’s prophecies come true. Biological artists have already approached biotechnology as a creative medium and created projects that transcend the orthodox taxonomy of art. Oron Catts and Zurr incubated victimless leather. Daisy Greensberg created E.Chromi, color-changing intestinal bacteria to notify us of potential digestive diseases. [15] Philip Ross cultivated a new strain of fungi to make sustainable fungal structures for everyday use. [16] Small steps towards our biotech future, big steps towards a new understanding of the arts.

Biological arts is a young, rapidly growing and a very promising field of art, situated in the fringes of the conventional art world and the art market. Its outsider position and its close connection to academic research allows the field to expand freely without the commercial constraints of the art market. If we are looking for a taxonomical home for SuperMammal™, PolyPhallus™ and NeoLabium™, it will be somewhere between biological arts and feminist art. In 2006, Stelarc collaborated with the very first biological arts research lab Symbiotica. The ambitious performance artist who would do anything to convey his ideas, wanted a third arm and a third ear. Symbiotica grew the third ear. [17] Following that tradition, Neolabium™ can be the second vulva, PolyPhallus™ the second penis, and SuperMammal™ the third, fourth, fifth, sixth breast.


1. Angier, Natalie. Woman: An Intimate Geography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1999. p84
2. An in-depth definition of neo-organ by The Tissue Culture & Art Project can be found in Ars Electronica’s Next Sex catalogue from 2001.
3. “The Clitoral Truth:The Secret World at Your Fingertips.” Accessed January 18, 2013.
4. NeoLabium™ ‘s relation to the face is a multifold one. In March 14th 2011 Dallas Wiens became the first recipient of a full face transplant. He had lost his mouth, lips, nose and eyes as well as the supportive tissue of his face. His new face was supported by muscle tissue grafted on his skull. The transplant face, not a neo-organ, was attached to Wien’s left cartoid first, from there on the face was stapled. The nerves supporting the face grew organically over time. Today Wiens has a face that he claims “feels like his own”.
The New Yorker. “Dallas Wiens, Face Transplant Recipient : The New Yorker.” Accessed June 18, 2013.
5. There are four main nerves for women and one for men that transmit sensations between the brain and the genitalia. The pudendal nerve connects the clitoris, the pelvic nerve carries signals from the vagina, the hypogastric nerve connects with the cervix and uterus, and the vagus nerve travels from the cervix and uterus without passing through the spinal cord.
6. An ancient hormone responsible for milk production which predates the evolution of mammals, which serves to maintain salt and water balance in the fish.
7. Haenlein, George F. W. Handbook of Milk of Non-Bovine Mammals. Wiley, 2006.
8. Deicher, Susanne. Mondrian. Taschen, 1995.
9. Solso, Robert L. The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003.
10. Deaner, R. O., Khera, A. V, & Platt, M. L. (2005). Monkeys pay per view: adaptive valuation of social images by rhesus macaques. Current biology : CB, 15(6), 543–8. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.01.044
11. Kac, Eduardo. Telepresence & Bio Art: Networking Humans, Rabbits & Robots. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
12. Catts and Zurr are the first initiators of a masters degree in Biological Arts. 2010. Master of Biological Arts : SymbioticA: The University of Western Australia. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 Jun 2013].
13. Home | The New York Review of Books. “Our Biotech Future by Freeman Dyson | The New York Review of Books.” Accessed June 18, 2013.
14. Ibid
15. 2009. E.chromi. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 May 2013].
16. 2000. Phil Ross | The Biotechnique of Phil Ross. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 10 Jun 2013].
17. 1996. Tissue Culture and Art Project in collaboration with Stelarc. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 Jun 2013]