Eduardo Kac (1962) is a Brazilian artist who lives and works in Chicago, USA. He uses biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works that explore and criticise scientific techniques. His best-known works are ‘Genesis’ and the transgenic fluorescent rabbit ‘GFP Bunny’. His works feature in international exhibits and in permanent museum collections around the world.
Kac’s piece ‘Cypher’ will be on show in the exhibition Alter Nature: We Can (21.11.2010-13.03.2011). For this work, Kac wrote a poem – ‘A tagged cat will attack gattaca’ – which he subsequently coded into the four alphabetic letters used to represent DNA: A, T, C and G. The poem was then synthesized and the result integrated into a kit that enables the viewer to inject the synthetic poem into a bacterium, so that it can then multiply.
‘Cypher’ is a statement against a society with a deterministic belief in the all-determining influence of genes; it is a statement against the deterministic belief in biology and in life. By packaging the artwork into a DIY kit, he invites the public to make their own decisions about technology, which according to Kac is set to have an enormous influence on humankind. We are all illiterates who must master a new language in order to prevent it from being used to control us. ‘Cypher’ – and the technology it uses – thus becomes an instrument of social transformation, rather than of social control.