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What is Genesis?

Genesis is a transgenic form of art, created in 1999 by Eduardo Kac. The artwork looks at the intricate relationships between biology and the belief system by taking a quote from the biblical book of 'Genesis and translating it in to Morse Code then converts the sequence into DNA base pairs. The quote chosen was: "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." And it was chosen because of what it implies about humans being superior over nature and other living things. The art work also looks at the ethics and our right to play God over what we deem beneath us. It does this by working with an 'Artist's Gene,' a synthetic gene that Eduardo Kac invented and does not exist in nature. It was specifically design for this work. The process of the work is the cloning of the synthetic gene into and their subsequent transformation into bacteria.

How is Genesis done?

The 'Artist Gene' was created by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs by a conversion principle specially developed for this work. The 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 .Transgenic bacterial communication then evolves. Along the mutation process, the precise information originally encoded in the ECFP bacteria is altered. The mutation of the synthetic gene will occur as a result of three factors: 1) the natural bacterial multiplication process; 2) bacterial dialogical interaction; 3) human-activated UV radiation. The selected bacteria are safe to use in public and are displayed in the gallery with the UV source in a protective transparent enclosure.

What is the purpose of Genesis?

Genesis is different from the genetic manipulations of scientists because it lets the viewer question the ethical and social issues involving gene manipulation that we are currently facing in the world. The purpose of Genesis is symbolic. Having the ability to change a genetic sentence means that we do not have to accept it's meaning in the form of inheritance. Genesis explores the notion that biological processes are now programmable, as well as capable of storing and processing data in a way that is like a computer.

How is it  displayed as art?

The gallery in which this art is displayed allows the viewer to monitor the evolution of the work. This display consists of a Petri dish with the bacteria, a flexible micro video 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 micro video camera.

Eduardo Kac 

Artist statement from Paradise Now: "I investigate the philosophical and political dimensions of communications processes. Equally concerned with the aesthetic and the social aspects of verbal and nonverbal interactions, I examine linguistic systems, dialogic exchanges, and interspecies communication. In 1998, to further expand my investigation of communications processes, I proposed Transgenic Art, a new art form based on the use of genetic engineering techniques to transfer synthetic genes to an organism or to transfer natural genetic material from one species into another in order to create unique living beings. The nature of this new art is defined not only by the birth and growth of a new plant or animal, but above all by the nature of the relationship between artist, public, and transgenic organismñwhich must be respected, loved, and nurtured like any other organism." Other works by Eduardo Kac 2006 “Genesis”, Karpio + Facchini Gallery, Miami 2006 “Eduardo Kac”, Fundación Telefónica, Buenos Aires 2005 “Move 36”, Galerie Biche de Bere, Paris 2004 “Rabbit Remix”, Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro 2003 “Maybe Then, If Only As”, Butler Institute Of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio 2002 “Free Alba!”, Julia Friedman Gallery, Chicago 2001 “Genesis”, Julia Friedman Gallery, Chicago “The Eighth Day”, Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University, Tempe

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