Transgenic Art

Eduardo Kac and Alba
Photograph courtesy of the artist

Careers in Science, Art and Technology

Imaging and Imagining Space: A Collaboration Between Art and Science
Art, the Environment, and New Technology
Transgenic Art
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Nanotechnology: Making Science a Smaller World
Research Microscopy and Scientific Imaging

Eduardo Kac, associate professor of art and technology, is widely recognized for his innovative Internet installations and transgenic art. Rather than making traditional art objects, Kac creates events, which often take the form of live links between two places, to facilitate verbal, non verbal, or interspecies communication.

Kac likens his interactive projects to jazz-music jam sessions in which musicians come together but do not necessarily know how long or what they will play. In many works, he incorporates Internet technology to lead the viewer/participant to question the very nature of communication. In his project Ornitorrinco (1989), viewers are able to have a telepresence and interact with a remote or virtual environment by controlling a telerobot through the Internet. In another work called Teleporting an Unknown State (1996), Kac planted a seed in a bed of earth in a completely dark room and then sent out thousands of e-mails inviting people around the world to point their Internet cameras toward the sky and teleport light photons to this space so the plant might thrive. A video projector connected to the computer positioned over the bed of earth formed a cone of light that nourished the plant and, after a while, the plant grew. Through this experiment, Kac demonstrated that the Internet is capable of supporting life and distributing natural resources.

One of Kac's most controversial works, using transgenic technology, is a glow-in-the-dark bunny named Alba. In the 1990s, scientists discovered a protein called GFP (green fluorescent protein) in jellyfish that enables these organisms to communicate and navigate at the bottom of the ocean. The protein has since become one of the most important tools in molecular biology because, when introduced into foreign cells, it does not affect its host organism, either morphologically or behaviorally. Kac injected the reproductive cell of a bunny with this GFP protein. When exposed to blue light with a maximum excitation of 488 nm, Alba casts a fluorescent green glow, with a maximum emission of 509 nm.

Kac’s controversial projects acknowledge the advancement of molecular biology, genetic engineering, and biotechnology in society. Humans are surrounded by an ever-increasing transgenic environment, and this artist’s work reaffirms that these transformations are well under way. Visit www.ekac.org for additional information about Eduardo Kac and his work.