Genetically engineered art

Art advances science, but science also advances art. Science continually provides the artist with new Cloning - photoshop image by Erwin Fisser - rights reserved under a CC licencsepossibilities to create. In my previous posting I wrote about ‘art in 50 years‘, in which I made some vague predictions about ways in which art could develop. There was, perhaps, nothing very spectacular there, with the possible minor exception of the creation of interactive 3D worlds. I must admit, however, that I forgot to mention another area that art and artists are already exploring now. This field may eventually grow out to become a large new segment of the artworld, even though it worries me just thinking about it; it is the field of genetic engineering.

Ofcourse, there are the fairly safe ‘genetic arts projects’ like the ones by the company Genarts, which uses Albagenetic algorithms to create visual effects that you can even fool around with for yourself in a demo version. What concerns me are ‘art’projects like creating a fluorescent green rabbit (like the bunny Alba) or pigeons that produce purple, erm, ‘crap’. The people repsonsible for these projects probably failed to see the scientific value of their work and subsequently filed it as ‘visual art’. It can nonetheless be argued that the artistic value of their work is very close to ‘zero’ as well.

A fluorescent bunny may be in poor taste, and show little respect for the little creature, it is a quite harmless experiment. In about 50 years time, genetic modification will probabaly be a piece of cake. At least for medical scientists. It may very well become possible to use living cells as building blocks with which we can create limbs, organs and other complicated living tissue (big steps are made by using -believe it or not- adapted inkjet printers with which living tissue is actually printed). As with all knowledge, it can be used for both good and evil. Lose an arm in a car crash We’ll just make you a new one? Need a harttransplant? Give us your creditcard details and we’ll bubblejet you a new heart. But what might happen if the technology isn’t well protected?

If gen-tech becomes available for artists, who are not concerned with ethical matters like doctors, we may DNA Artsee the birth of all sorts of new living creatures (not necisarilly creatures that have any form of awareness, but creatures built with ‘living’ tissue). And probably not just animal-like figures. Someone will eventually create something like a ‘living’ house, car or vacuum cleaner and call it art. Undoubtedly the artist will say its intended purpose is public debate (‘what does it mean to be alive’), or social awareness (‘this is what medical science today is capable of’).

I may not agree with such a development, and I don’t, but I do really think that it is something that will Impossibility - Damien Hirsthappen. Artists always seek the boundaries of the moral and what is acceptable and when found, they will cross the boundaries. In many cases, that is what makes them ‘artists’. So, without advocating it, I think I have to same ‘bio-art’ as a future development for the artistic world. The new breed of curators may have studied biology.


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