Transgenic E-coli bacteria, petri dishes, lettering, website, video projection, tray, pedestal
Genesis is a transgenic artwork that explores the intricate relationship between biology, belief systems, information technology, dialogical interaction, ethics, and the internet. The key element of the work is an 'artist's gene', a synthetic gene that was created by Kac by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs according to a conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work.
The sentence reads: "Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." It was chosen for what it implies about the dubious notion of divinely sanctioned human supremacy over nature. Morse Code was chosen because, as first employed in radiotelegraphy, it represents the dawn of the information age - the genesis of global communications. The initial process in this work is the cloning of the synthetic gene into plasmids and their subsequent transformation into bacteria. A new protein molecule is produced by the gene.
Two kinds of bacteria are employed in the work: bacteria that have incorporated a plasmid containing ECFP (Enhanced Cyan Fluorescent Protein) and bacteria that have incorporated a plasmid containing EYFP (Enhanced Yellow Fluorescent Protein). ECFP and EYFP are GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) mutants with altered spectral properties. The ECFP bacteria contain the synthetic gene, while the EYFP bacteria do not. These fluorescent bacteria emit cyan and yellow light when exposed to UV radiation (302 nm). As they grow in number mutations naturally occur in the plasmids. As they make contact with each other plasmid conjugal transfer takes place and we start to see color combinations, possibly giving rise to green bacteria.
Transgenic bacterial communication evolves as a combination of three visible scenarios: 1: ECFP bacteria donate their plasmid to EYFP bacteria (and vice-versa), generating green bacteria; 2: No donation takes place (individual colours are preserved); 3: Bacteria lose their plasmid altogether (become pale, ochre-coloured).
The gallery display enables local as well as remote (web) participants to monitor the evolution of the work. Remote participants on the web interfere with the process by turning the UV light on. This display consists of a petri dish with the bacteria, a flexible microvideo camera, a UV light box, and a microscope illuminator. This set is connected to a video projector and two networked computers. One computer works as a web server (streaming live video and audio) and handles remote requests for UV activation. The other computer is responsible for DNA music synthesis.The local video projection shows a larger-than-life image of the bacterial division and interaction seen through the microvideo camera.
In the context of the work, the ability to change the sentence is a symbolic gesture: it means that we do not accept its meaning in the form we inherited it, and that new meanings emerge as we seek to change it.
Eduardo Kac is internationally recognised for his interactive net installations and his bio art. A pioneer of telecommunications art in the pre-Web '80s, Eduardo Kac emerged in the early '90s with his radical telepresence and biotelematic works. His visionary combination of robotics and networking explores the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world. His work deals with issues that range from the mythopoetics of online experience (Uirapuru) to the cultural impact of biotechnology (Genesis); from the changing condition of memory in the digital age (Time Capsule) to distributed collective agency (Teleporting an Unknown State); from the problematic notion of the 'exotic' (Rara Avis) to the creation of life and evolution (GFP Bunny). At the dawn of the twenty-first century Kac shocked the world with his 'transgenic art'--first with a groundbreaking net installation entitled Genesis (1999), which included an 'artist's gene' he invented, and then with his fluorescent rabbit called Alba (2000).
USA / BRAZIL