In March 2019 at the Adelaide Festival in Australia, Dutch Artist Julian Hetzel is going to be selling bars of soap. But no ordinary foamy shower tools, these ones are made by extracting human fat through liposuction, which is then turned into soap. You read that right.
Apart from sounding incredibly gross (and the whole process sounds so disturbing, from the tube going into a person's stomach to the goop ending up in the soap), there are ethical issues associated with selling body fluids to ponder.
Of course, this is predominantly a shock value art installation, no matter how much the artist would deny it. The entire concept is justified by the fact that the money raised from the sale of the soap will be donated to aid programs in poor countries. I imagine a lot of soap has to be sold to make this viable, and that means a lot of people need to be prepared to start donating their fat. An equally large number of people need to be prepared to buy this "fat soap."
Sure, the artist is trying to illustrate excess in the west and lack in the east, contradictions we all understand and feel very uncomfortable with. But is this product the right way to illustrate this ongoing issue? I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just asking the question.
What I'm really asking is whether something like this will become normal in the near future? Will we see body fluids being recycled? Will it mark the beginning of a whole pile of "shock products" made from humans for humans? Is it ethical? Is it just the evolution of business at work?
For now, I won't be buying soap made from human fat. I will however be talking about it a lot to get a sense of how others feel and perhaps get some idea on where this is heading. Maybe it will take confronting products like this to solve many of the world's bigger issues. We certainly live in a world where so many things previously considered inconceivable are now common.