Minnesota Daily - (http://www.mndaily.com)
Publish Date: 04/17/2009

Transgenic petunia inspires art

Artist Eduardo Kac works with University scientist to create genetically modified flower.

Reporter: Shieva Salehnia

Part man, part plant, Edunia is a work of art.
A genetically modified petunia, the “plantimal” sits in its pot on a pedestal at the Weisman Art Museum. It is part of the Eduardo Kac: Natural History of the Enigma exhibit premiering Friday featuring Kac’s work incorporating art and biological technology.
University of Minnesota plant biology professor Neil Olszewski worked with Kac to create a transgenic petunia using DNA from Kac’s immune system and Olszewski’s work on plant viruses .
“It’ll have more use in an art gallery than in a cornfield,” Olszewski said of his collaborative work.
The creation of Edunia and the exhibit took six years from the beginning of the project to its opening this spring .
“It’s invented. It’s not something you buy. It’s not something you can find,” Kac said. “You’re producing a life-form, and that can take time.”

Photo: Marija Majerle

A gene from Kac’s immune system was isolated and implanted into the cells of a petunia. The red veins of Edunia are where Kac’s DNA is expressed .
For the last 10 years, Kac has focused on bio-art, using the creation of life as a medium for art.
“There is something irreducible about being here with another life form that never existed on this planet before,” Kac said.
Kac also created a 14-foot metal and fiberglass sculpture inspired by Eduina’s creation titled “Singularis .” The sculpture can be seen in front of the Cargill Center on the St. Paul Campus .
Craig Amundsen, Weisman public arts curator , said “Singularis,” like all works of public art, has a transformative power.
“The people who see it change intellectually,” Amundsen said. “There is the simple impact public art has in the aesthetic standpoint; but it also communicates to our students, so it has an educational purpose.”
Amundsen said art has the ability to teach “social responsibility.”
Kac’s work will create a charged environment, Olszewski said.
“Art really represents a good vehicle for initiating discussion on the use of genetically modified plants and their appropriateness,” he said.
Six hand-made seed packets, containing Edunia’s seeds, along with six lithograph prints inspired by the packets are part of the exhibit that will join the Weisman’s permanent collection .
“It’s indicative to the transformations that life in the 21st century is undergoing,” Kac said.

© 2009 Minnesota Daily

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