The Irish Times, 07 Jul 2007.

Frankenstein and the glowing rabbit

The artist Eduardo Kac, who was at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin this week to talk about his internationally famous experiments, “is something of a latter-day Leonardo da Vinci.  Some might suggest more of a Frankenstein,” said Michael John Gorman, director of the soon-to-be-opened Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, welcoming the critically  acclaimed artist.

Described as “bio-art”, he uses the tools of science and technology to manipulate the processes of life.  Kac has the “ability to imagine a future society and the kind of things people would need,” said Forman.  “He is also someone who forces us to confront that future society.”

Kac is sometimes compared with Frankenstein, not least because he altered an animal in a controversial way in 2000 in the shape of a living, breathing fluorescent green rabbit called Alba - created by introducing a fluorescent gene from a jellyfish.

“Most of the time she is an albino rabbit,” Kac explained.  When a particular type of light is turned on, however, “she emits a green light”.

This transgenic work “is emblematic of a new philosophical and cultural paradigm”, he said.

The boundaries between machines and the body “become nearly irrelevant in the context of the work”.  Afterwards, scientists and others discussed Kac’s Art Beyond Nature lecture, before going upstairs to view the current exhibition of a collection of largely scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester.

Kac’s work is “absolutely mind-blowing”, declared eye surgeon Dr. Kate Coleman, chairwoman of the Right to Sight organisation and one of the library’s trustees.  “I think they should do a blue and a yellow one and mate them and see what that would give us,” she said, her eyes sparkling mischief.

“The issue for me is that in bio art, they can take their work to the point at which their art is complete, whereas scientists have to persist, learning more and more about less and less,” said Barney Whelan, head of communications and corporate affairs at An Post and a former scientist.  Equally impressed were Prof. Marie Redmond of TCD and Dr. Shane McCausland, curator of the library’s east Asia collections.

“It was shattering stuff,” said Máirín Cullen, a library volunteer.  “He was fantastic.  He was kind of scary and interesting, like from another planet.”  Her friend Rita Sutton, a fellow library volunteer, agreed he was fascinating.

 2007 The Irish Times

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