The nature of art and the ethics of transgenic “art” – Daniel Waltrip

The guest lecture on transgenic art opened up a very important discussion regarding art. While many people opposed the nature of lecture (transgenic art, or more specifically a genetically altered bunny that glowed green when placed under certain light) as not morally correct or cruel, and also questioned the validity of the claim that GFP bunny is art, the forthcoming question, “what is art?”, is something that we need to analyze.

Merriam-webster.com defines art as the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects. Other sources report a similar interpretation. Any creation that is made with human skill and creative ability is art. Thus, the scientists used their skills and knowledge to genetically alter Alba, creatively producing a bunny that can glow green. The vagueness and ambiguities that such interpretations leave are huge. Art can become whatever one chooses. This is not to say there are stereotypical ideas surrounding the concept of art, and which describe the majority of works that people deem as art. However, it makes the debate over whether a person’s creative pursuits or works are art rather trivial. Art is simply the creative expression of a person’s passions, thoughts, or ideas. This is evident in transgenic art, which is a rather untraditional form of art. We have seen other examples of such untraditional art in this class as well, with kinetic art, fractal art, and many of the other science-art projects that we studied.

Another issue related to GFP Bunny that sparked my interest was that ethics of such an endeavor. Many students were quite offended by this “work of art”, saying what would happen if we began performing riskier experiments or creating such works with humans. Personally, I view this debate from a more scientific perspective. The purpose of Alba was to provoke discussion about uncharted, bio-technological nature of the work which, while related to art, seems to be more relevant in the scientific realm. Pushing the boundaries on transgenic research might uncover magnificent scientific discoveries, as opposed to allowing for new, fancy art. This seems much more interesting to me, but I am slightly biased towards the science/math fields (south campus geek alert!). Experiments of equal or even far worse cruelty are performed very often, so I can’t even see the source for such outrage against GFP bunny. As long as proper precautions are made, and (obviously) we don’t allow for transgenic experimentation with humans, I don’t think there is that much to worry about in the near future.

 As proof of how useful (and coo) transgenic research can and most definitely will prove to be, here is an article on a yeast crossed with mice that might be able to sniff out explosives: http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/mg19426036.000-genetically-modified-yeast–can-sniff-out-explosives.html 

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