Eduardo Kac, internationally known for his pioneering
work in transgenic art, which utilizes genetic engineering techniques
to create unique life forms, lectured Nov. 30, 2005 at the College
of Architecture as part of the college’s Visiting Artist
program, sponsored by the Texas A&M’s Academy for the
Visual and Performing Arts.
Over the course of his 25-year career, Kac (pronounced “katz”)
has used poetry, open-air dramatic performances, television,
holograms, the Web and “art robots,” as well as other
diverse media, to investigate the philosophical and political
dimensions of communications and biotechnology. Much of his art
is designed to be interactive and to elicit strong, often controversial,
responses from those who experience it.
At the lecture, Kac will discussed his “telepresence” work,
which explores the interaction between organisms and new technologies
like robots, computers and the Internet. The artist also talked
about his provocative transgenic works, which include “GFP
Bunny,” an albino rabbit genetically altered with green
fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish, enabling it to glow
bright green when exposed to fluorescent light.
Kac also reviewed his other transgenic works: “The Eighth
Day” and “Move 36.”
The Eighth Day” is a self-contained ecology bringing together
transgenic life forms — fluorescent amoeba called Dyctiostelium
discoideum — and a biological robot, or “biobot.” The
amoeba act as “brain cells,” forming a biological
network within the robot that is responsible for aspects of its
behavior. This environment, housed under a four-foot Plexiglas
dome, is linked interactively to the Internet, making visible
what it would be like if these creatures co-existed in the world.
Move 36,” which includes a transgenic plant created by
Kac, sheds light on the limits of the human mind and the increasing
capabilities of computers and robots. The project’s title
makes reference to the dramatic 36th move made by the computer,
Deep Blue, against the world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in
the highly publicized 1997 man-versus-machine chess match.
This competition may be characterized as a match between the
greatest chess player who ever lived, and the greatest chess
player who never lived,” Kac said.
As viewers walk into the space, they see a chessboard made of
sand and earth, flanked by digital projections, and the plant
rooted precisely in the square where the computer defeated the
human — where move 36 was made.
After the lecture, Kac autographed copies of his new book Telepresence
and Bio Art — Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots, published
by The University of Michigan Press.