Mushtari is a multi-material, 3D printed wearable which has hollow channels that are filled with synthetically engineered micro-organisms to aid explorers in their endeavor to inhabit the planet of Jupiter. The piece fits over the hips, covering one’s pubic area and buttocks with gradated coral red 3D printed material. This piece is created from one, 58-meter-long channel that allows for micro-organisms to travel through the piece. Throughout this channel, there are several points of transparency; this allows for the photosynthetic microbes to receive sunlight to create sucrose, which is then converted by other microbes present in the system into items the user might need. Its design is based on the functionality of humans’ intestines: consuming, digesting, absorbing, and expelling materials. The design was created through the use of generative growth algorithms throughout several iterations. Oh, Eric (2015, July 12).
The name Mushtari is Arabic for huge or giant. This reflects the actual scale of the planet Jupiter, which has “a mass two and a half times greater than the mass of all other planets in the Solar System combined.” (Via Material Ecology, 2016). This piece is part of a series called Wanderers, An Astrobiological Exploration, which focuses on what would be needed by those traveling to the hostile environments of space. These works are also an exploration of the worlds that reside within human bodies; primitive micro-organisms and their relationship with the sophisticated structures of the human body. In the example of Mushtari, the biomass within the piece utilize sunlight to create whatever the wearer may need to survive the hostile environments provided by the planet of Jupiter. Each of the pieces in the Wanderers series are named in Arabic to pay homage to the medieval Arabs that studied these celestial bodies in their quest to better comprehend divine creation and with guidance in their travels. (Via Material Ecology, 2016).
“This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganisms. Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari hosts synthetic microorganisms – a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria – that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun.” (Oxman, Neri, via Stratasys, 2015, May 13).
“Clearing the support material out from such a long, narrow and complex structure to create the hollow channels for living matter presented a significant challenge. Our R&D team went beyond the boundaries of our existing technology, formulating a dedicated improved support structure to allow a smooth, effective process in support of Professor Oxman’s vision.” (Kaempfer, Naomi, via Stratasys, 2015, May 13).
Projects like Mushtari enable society to have a clearer vision of what could take place in the future. With examples like this, it creates conversation about how society will progress into the future, which informs actions taken during the present. With artists that create speculative projects, viewers are given a looking-glass for which to view the future and are able to take these conclusions to create ideas of their own regarding their future.
Compare this work to another piece in Oxman’s Wanderers series, Zuhal. Zuhal, the Arabic term for fertility and growth, is associated with the planet Saturn, and “its vortex storm that create a steep latitudinal gradient in the speed of the winds blowing across the planet’s atmosphere,”(via Material Ecology, 2014). With this in mind, the design resembles a wild vortex field; each printed line varying in weight and value. This piece is coated in fibers that contain bacteria that are able to convert hydrocarbons, a material considered a possible platform for life, into edible material.
This work can also be compared to the work of Tomas Saraceno; his work focuses on the speculative future of human homes on Earth. The body of work, Becoming Aerosolar, in particular, lends itself to ideas of how humanity will continue to live throughout the duration of the Anthropocene era and beyond. Becoming Aerosolar is a speculation of aeronautics, coexistence, and architecture utilizing what was originally a collection of used plastic bags. These bags are then placed in the sun until they defy gravity, creating a floating orb of once discarded materials. These works are comparable because both artists are creating thought-provoking work regarding the future of humanity; Oxman explores the realities of traveling to distant planets in search of a new place for humanity to reside, while Saraceno focuses on what will happen if humans decide to stay earthbound, for the most part. Both work heavily with other scholars, artists, and scientists to create their works.
Mushtari has been shown at the following exhibitions:
- Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, 2016
- EuroMold, Frankfurt, Germany, 2015
 “We designed a computional [sic] growth process which is capable of producing a wide variety of growing structures. Inspired by natural growth behaviour, the computional [sic] process creates shapes that adapt to their environment. Starting with a seed, the process simulates growth by continuously expanding and refining its shape.” (Bader, Christoph via Bēhance, 2014, Nov 26)