Week 2 Response – Genetic Manipulation in the Arts


In the readings, George Gessert, a pioneer in the field of genetic art, talks about his works which included the genetic engineering such as the Pacific Coast irises. He combines the genes of other plants to create beautiful plants that nature alone would not be able to achieve. One of his other works introduces a variety of genetic engineered flowers and displays it for the public to state which are the “best” and which should be discarded. Gessert mentions the vast possibilities of art related to genetics, but it also brings the issue of “unrealistic expectations” from people when we start dealing with genetic manipulation. The beauty of nature itself disappears when people start to genetically modify things into their own preference. Some things are better off left alone instead of being altered because if you bring in new versions of plants, the old ones become obsolete in terms of people’s expectations.

It can be argued that modifying these plants can be a form of art, but one of the problems is that some people will always view it as eugenics and that the manipulation of plants can be also used on humans. Gessert is obviously not using the plants in any way or form to symbolize humans, but because of the traumas caused WW2 and the Nazis’ view of the perfect human beings, the world has been affected with anything related to genetic manipulation. Some will criticize his work only because eugenics in the twentieth century implied that anything genetically modified could also be used in humans (Wilson, 97). I believe that the only way to continue working with genetic arts, is to give people time to get over the scars that history left behind.

The world might just not be ready for art with genetic manipulation, especially when we are still in the stage of discovering new species of plants and animals. We cannot say that we have truly experienced all the beauty this world has to offer when we have not seen it all. Once we run out of natural resources to observe, then people could start to turn to new methods of art. Just like Gessert said, genetic manipulation has the power to offer new artistic possibilities, but it will take some time before people come to acknowledge it. Until then, I believe that genetic art will continue to be criticized and it will progress very slowly.

-Daniel Yang

I signed up for week 7’s topic so I should present week 8

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