Natural History of the Enigma
Natural History of the Enigma is a piece of bio art by Eduardo Kac, which was engineered between 2003 and 2008. It is an organism that is half plant half human, which he calls “Edunia.” Edunia is a flower that is hybrid, made up of Petunia and Kac’s DNA. The flower has pink petals, which are covered in red veins. The artist says that his DNA is present in the veins of the flower, as one of his genes is present in each cell. The genes produce proteins in the veins as well. He chose pink petals to represent his pinkish-white skin tone. The combination of the red veins and pink petals symbolize human blood pumping through the body.
The scientific process of developing this flower began with the drawing of the artist’s blood, as well as the isolation of a genetic sequence from his immune system. This genetic sequence is used in the flower to fight off any external invaders. The red veins representing Kac’s blood were created using a chimeric gene made up of his own DNA. To ensure that the red was only present in the plant’s vascular system, Professor Neil Olszewski’s CoYMV Promoter was used to run the gene expression into the veins only. Kac, Eduardo (2009) Natural History of the Enigma
This work goes out to show that we as humans are related to far more than other mammals. This genetically engineered species serves as a model for the connection that all species in life share. By bringing together to completely different species to create one hybrid, it shows that all of the world’s species are connected through ancestry and heritage in the big picture.
Megan Gambino, for Smithsonian Magazine, wrote:
“Scientists are inserting human genes into plants, in an attempt to manufacture drugs on a large scale; the plants essentially become factories, producing human antibodies used to diagnose diseases. “But you don’t have plants that have been made to explore ideas,” Olszewski says. “Eduardo came to this with an artistic vision. That is the real novelty.” Gambino, Megan (2013, Feb 22nd) The Story of How An Artist Created a Genetic Hybrid of Himself and a Petunia
Eduardo Kac’s work should not be a topic of controversy, as the biomedical world is already genetically engineering plants for medicine. Furthermore, Kac’s flower has no ulterior motives. It was simply developed as a vision that resembles a deeper meaning. Its only purpose is to be appreciated artistically.
Natural History of the Enigma is similar to another work by Eduardo Kac, GFP Bunny. GFP Bunny, or Alba, is an albino bunny that glows green when placed under specific light. Kac created this bunny by inserting proteins normally found in jellyfish into a rabbit’s egg. Since it is an albino rabbit, it has no skin pigmentation; therefore, allowing it to glow under certain lighting. In both works, Kac is creating organisms with characteristics not found in nature. This has caused lots of controversy; however, these organisms function and live just as the rest of nature does. The beauty behind it is the fact that they are capable of this while being human made.
Amy Young’s River Construct appeared to be similar to Kac’s work in the sense that they are both developing art that functions as a normally piece of nature, although they are not naturally found in the world. River Construct is a river system that is sustained by several organisms that were placed in the unit. The river runs up and down a ladder, passing through plant life at each step. A solar-powered battery powers the water. The plants use natural light to sustain themselves, and there is a rabbit in a nearby enclosure to provide poop for the system.
Weisman Art Museum – Minneapolis
Gambino, M. (2013, February 22). The Story of How An Artist Created a Genetic Hybrid of Himself and a Petunia. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-story-of-how-an-artist-created-a-genetic-hybrid-of-himself-and-a-petunia-25148544/?no-ist
Kac, E. (n.d.). GFP BUNNY. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.ekac.org/gfpbunny.html#gfpbunnyanchor
Kac, E. (n.d.). NATURAL HISTORY OF THE ENIGMA. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.ekac.org/nat.hist.enig.html
Youngs, A. (2010). Amy Youngs - River Construct. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://hypernatural.com/riverconstruct.html