This week we covered the intersection of biotechnology and art. Professor Vesna taught us that Tokyo scientists added a glowing jellyfish gene to mice in 1997, which allowed the scientists to tag certain genes of proteins and create a tracing ability of a fluorescent glow when the genes are active. This was one way scientists could find active diseases without the use of invasive surgery, and mice were specifically chosen because their structural DNA closely resembles that of humans. Artists found this biotechnology intriguing and created a new art form: transgenic art. Artists wanted to utilize genetic engineering to create unique living beings. For example, Eduardo Kac’s “GFP Bunny” was a transgenic artwork that created a green, living fluorescent rabbit named Alba. However, animal rights activists claim that transgenic art is needless and abusive manipulation of an animal.
|Eduard Kac and Alba|
More on GFP Animals
After learning more about this week’s material, I definitely side more with the animal rights activists. There should be more stringent restrictions for artists using biotechnology on animals than for scientists in scientific research. There were a few bio-art projects Professor Vesna provided as examples in the lecture that completely shocked me. A few of them include Kathy High’s Blood Wars, Orlan’s Harlequin Coat, and especially Stelarc’s Third Ear. Stelarc had an ear engineered with human cartilage put underneath his forearm skin through a process called a subdermal implant. This was supposed to be an example of transhumanism – a movement thinking that the human body is not good enough, and thus biotechnology should be used to overcome human limitations to improve conditions. Stelarc was also known for saying: “the body is going to be obsolete.” I completely disagree with Stelarc’s view on the human body. The human body is extraordinary and can be transformed naturally by specific diets and consistent training routines. Everyone is already unique in his or her very way, and artists need not create any “crossbreeding” of skins or have white blood cell vie for dominance in petri dishes to prove a point.
|Stelarc's Third Ear|
|Orlan's Harlequin Coat|