Week 3 Response

One of the key points discussed about the GFP Bunny was the ethical and scientific consequences regarding transgenic, or bio art.  With traditional fine arts, there are less material consequences you can do with a canvas.  Despite the rationale or the main intent for creating a bio art piece, there are always boundaries.  Regarding the GFP Bunny named Alba, the artist Eduardo Kac was a person created the genetically modified rabbit as an artistic expression, not a scientific experiment.  Major critics of his art piece focused on the fact that Eduardo created a freak of nature, crossed the moral boundary of science.  However, Kac’s purpose in creating Alba was to emphasize how society treated “difference”.

I, as an artist, personally think that the bio art has to maintain a balance between freedom of expression and scientific morality.  Even though the artist side of me really craves total freedom when it comes to art, but when it transgenic science is involved, there  needs to be some conscious thought put into it.  It’s not that I don’t trust any artist who handles transgenic art, but how it can be abused by others.  Among the audience, there are always those who might be influenced, and thus take another step in the scientific direction.  For instance, the issue with the GFP bunny, I thought that Alba was the most innovative and interesting art piece that I’ve seen.  I’ve never seen genetics as a “canvas” before, and I believe it could possibly a worthy medium of art.  Even if he was being risky, I think that his genetic experimentation  wasn’t as intrusive as people thought.  His goal was to make the bunny glow, not to pioneer and start a movement of transgenic experimentation, and the scientific steps he took were not inventive or begin something new.

However, when someone takes it one step further, I begin to get worried.  And especially when that “someone” has already  been well known controversially, there are some big differences between the GFP Bunny and “The Eighth Day”.  This art project was also created by Eduardo Kac, who instead of genetically modifying one bunny, modifies several species.  Plants and small animals are placed within this self-contained environment.  All the creatures within this ecology are created through cloning of a gene, the same way he created Alba.  Thus, all the animals and plants glow in the dark due to the same GFP gene that Alba has.

Within the environment, there is a small robot placed at the center.  The robot is a “biobot”, that contains a colony of GFP cells in its “brain”.  These cells or amoebas control the biobot’s behavior; as the amoebas divide, one of the six legs of the biobot moves.  As one leg contracts to lean forward, another stretches.  All the biobot’s movements are monitored and controlled by the GFP colony.

Furthermore, people in the gallery have control of the robot, as they can see through its eyes.  They can see exactly how the ecoloy works through the internet.

“The Eighth Day” creates a context in which participants can reflect on the meaning of a transgenic ecology from a first-person perspective

This is a considerably different project than Kac’s previous project involving Alba.  Instead of a single biological creature, he creates an entire ecology of various plant and animal life.  And his main focus is to show how new various transgenic organisms can thrive in an environemnt.  As an art project, I find Eduardo’s “The Eighth Day” to be dangerous and risky.  Instead of a single bunny, he’s altered an entire ecosystem.  He’s changed way too many variables that open up a lot more consequences than changing a single thing.  The main issue is that its no longer about affecting the genes of one animal, but an entire ecosystem.  Others can use the experiment to alter an actual ecosystem or something of similar scale or level.

Although I agree that freedom of expression is a right that all artists deserve, we need to think about the consequences.  Our works can always influence others to maybe take a step further.  Technology is always advancing, and it seems as though it always grants people with more power.  And with that power, people have to know boundaries or limits so it can’t be abused.  The Eighth Day is a great art work that explores how transgenic organisms can live in an ecosystem, but it crosses some boundaries that can indirectly cause more drastic experiments.

Elliot Yang

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