Recognized as one of the leading figures in media art, Kac uses communication processes, biological life, and digital networks to create works that explore fundamental human experiences such as the fluidity of language, dialogical interaction, and awareness of our relative place in the larger community of life. Kac‘s work explores but goes beyond human language and culture to encompass human nonverbal communication as well as communication in all living organisms and sign processes within organisms. The artist's central subject matter is communication, its fundamental role from molecular interaction between cells to human dialogue, from animal communication to social remote exchanges via networks. His visionary combination of robotics, biotechnology and networking explores the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world. The work featured in this exhibition deals with issues that range from the changing condition of memory in the digital age (Time Capsule) to distributed collective agency (Teleporting an Unknown State), from the cultural impact of biotechnology (Genesis) to the creation of life and evolution (GFP Bunny). The exhibition is organized chronologically, from one of Kac's earliest holopoems , Chaos (1986), to one of his most recent works, "Lagoglyphs: The Bunny Variations"(2007).
Time Capsule performance
Celebrating the 10th anniversay of the first human microchip implant, Kac re-enacted his 1997 performance during the exhibition opening at IVAM (September 27, 2007), thus enabling local and web participants to scan the microchip inside his body.
Chaos, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide hologram, edition of 2, 1986. Collection of the artist.
Wordsl, 30 X 30 cm, silver-halide film hologram, 1986. Collection of the artist.
Albeit, 40 X 50 cm, silver-halide hologram, 1989. Collection of the artist.
Andromeda Souvenir, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 3, 1990. Collection Acquaviva-Faustino, Paris.
Amalgam, 10 X 7.5 cm, silver-halide hologram, 1990. Collection of the artist.
Eccentric, 40 X 50 cm, silver-halide hologram, 1990. Collection of the artist.
Adhuc, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 3, 1991. Collection Karas, Madrid.
Havoc, 30 X 120 cm (triptych), silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 2, 1992. Collection of the artist.
Astray in Deimos, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 2, 1992. Collection of the artist.
Zephyr, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 2, 1993. Collection of the artist.
Maybe Then, If Only As, 30 X 40 cm, silver-halide digital hologram, edition of 2, 1993. Collection of the artist.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND TELEPRESENCE
Kac defines telepresence art as an art based on remote action, and not only the exchange of sounds, text, and images. Through telepresence we can act and intervene physically in a remote environment; that is, our actions have consequences far away. Kac's first telepresence work, not featured in the exhibition, dates from 1986.
In this gallery we find three works emblematic of Kac's subversive use of telecommunications and his invention of telepresence art.
"Ornitorrinco" [Platypus] (1989), Kac's second telepresence robot, is exhibited here for the first time since 1996, date of its last telepresence experience. Although the work was never conceived to be displayed on a pedestal, the original is presented here for its historical significance.
"Dialogical Drawing" (1994) is presented in full operational mode, in its second-ever exhibition since the date of its creation. With this work, at the dawn of the Internet, the artist asked: "What is the condition of the art object in the age of networking and telematics?"
The Telepresence Garment (1995/96) is a telepresence work. Apparel and apparatus merge in this networked interactive article of clothing. Although the work was conceived to be experienced, instead of shown statically, the original is presented here for its historical significance.
Teleporting an Unknown State is a telepresence work that allows online participants to send light from different areas of the world to a single seed. The plant depends on light sent by web participants to be able to do photosynthesis and grow in a dark gallery. This work uses the notion of teleportation of photons (light particles) to create the experience of the Internet as a life-supporting system.
Ornitorrinco (with Ed Bennet), 1989, telerobot, 61 x 61 x 46 cm (plus extendible antennae). Collection of the artist.
Dialogical Drawing, 1994, network diptych, 71,5 x 28,5 x 6 cm (dos piezas, c/u). Collection of the artist.
Teleporting an Unknown State, 1994/96, telepresence work with plant, webcams, computers, Internet. Dimensions variable. Edition of 2. Collection of the artist.
Telepresence Garment, 1995-96, leather, cloth, electronic components. Dimensions variable. Collection Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia.
"Time Capsule" was realized on November 11, 1997, at Casa das Rosas, a cultural center in São Paulo, Brazil. Eduardo Kac implanted a digital microchip in his own body live on television and on the web, in front of original sepia-toned photographs that document the life of his family in Europe before 1939. Kac is the first human being with a microchip implant. As a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the implant, in this gallery we see the work in its final form, which brings together into a coherent whole the several original elements of the live intervention: microchip implant, seven sepia-toned photographs, a live television broadcast, a webscast, interative telerobotic webscanning of the implant, a remote database intervention, and additional display elements, including an X-ray of the implant.
Genesis is a transgenic artwork. The key element of the work is an "artist's gene," a synthetic gene that was created by Kac by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA according to a conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work. The Genesis gene is incorporated into living bacteria. Local and online participants can turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, causing real, biological mutations in the bacteria. This changes the biblical sentence in the bacteria. In the context of the work, the ability to change the sentence is both a real and a symbolic gesture: it means that we do not accept its meaning in the form we inherited it, and that new meanings emerge as we seek to change it.
"Move 36" explores the permeable boundaries between the human and the nonhuman, the living and the nonliving. The title of "Move 36" refers to the dramatic chess move made by computer Deep Blue against world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997 -- a chess match between the best player that ever lived and the best player that never lived. The work includes a plant, especially created by Kac for the work, that contains a new gene. This gene is a DNA translation of Descartes' statement "Cogito ergo sum." Kac translated Descartes's statement from Latin to the universal computer code (called ASCII), and then to DNA. The plant is rooted precisely in the square where the computer defeated the human, that is, where the "move 36" was made.
Time Capsule, 1997, microchip implant, seven sepia-toned photographs, live television broadcast, webscast, interactive telerobotic webscanning of the implant, remote database intervention, X-ray of the implant. Dimensions variable. Collection BEEP/Data Logic, Barcelona.
Genesis, 1999, transgenic work with UV light, sound, computers, artist-created bacteria, Internet. Dimensions variable. Edición 2. Collection Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia.
Move 36, 2002/04, transgenic work with digital video and artist-created plant. Dimensions variable. Edition of 2. Courtesy Black Box Gallery, Copenhagen.
"Rabbit Remix" started with GFP Bunny (2000), that is, when Eduardo Kac created the fluorescent rabbit called Alba. The artist inserted in a rabbit fertilized egg the fluorescence genes found in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria (aka crystal jelly), native to the west coast of North America. The fluorescence feature was transferred to Alba. As a result, when exposed to blue light of a specific frequency, Alba glows green.
Traditionally, creatures made of the parts of multiple animals were firmly in the realm of mythology. However, with his work “GFP Bunny,” in the context of which Alba was born, Kac transformed myth into medium. She is a transgenic mammal. The artist intended to pass from legend into life, thus bringing into the world a new being of his own creation. For Kac, bio art allows him to create not objects, but real subjects. “GFP Bunny” was censored by the director of the lab where she was born, in Jouy-en-Josas, France. Contrary to what was originally agreed (i.e., Kac’s stated goal of bringing Alba home), she was never allowed to leave the lab.
The series "Rabbit Remix," which has been evolving for the last seven years, is represented here with works from its many different facets, from the posters (2000) and the flag (2001) that ignited Kac's campaign to obtain Alba's freedom to the sculpture Featherless (2006), that captures the moment Kac first held Alba in his arms; from the "Free Alba!" series of photographs, in which the artist has re-appropriated aspects of the circulation of his own work through the mass media, to drawings in which he carves a lyrical and personal space to explore and reveal new meanings of his work; from The Alba Headline Supercollider (2004), a digital work that collides real headlines about Alba producing new and often absurd ones, to It's not easy being green! (2003), an artist book focused on the poetic and humorous public responses to "GFP Bunny;' from the sculpture Boulevard Alba (2006), a street sign in which the people of France pay "Homage to the green bunny in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the defense of the rights of the new living beings", to one of his most recent works, "Lagoglyphs: The Bunny Variations"(2007), presented in the next gallery, in which the artist develops a leporimorph or rabbitographic form of writing. As visual language that alludes to meaning but resists interpretation, the Lagoglyphs series stands as the counterpoint to the barrage of discourses generated through, with, and around Kac’s “GFP Bunny.”
La vie en Fluo, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Private collection, Miami.
Carte routière, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Private collection, Miami.
Trois Lapins, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Private collection, Miami.
Lapin mémoire, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Private collection, Miami.
Les nuages nagent comme des souvenirs géants, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Private collection, Paris.
L’Animal, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Collection Alfredo Hertzog da Silva
Madame Lapine, et alors?, 2002, pencil on watercolor paper, 16 x 20" (40.6 X 50.8 cm). Collection Alfredo Hertzog da Silva
"Free Alba!” (The Washington Post), 2001, color photographs mounted on aluminum with Plexiglas, 36 x 46.5 inches (91.4 x 118 cm) each, ed. 5. Collection Alfredo Hertzog da Silva.
“Free Alba!” (Die Woche), 2001, color photographs mounted on aluminum with Plexiglas, 36 x 46.5 inches (91.4 x 118 cm) each, ed. 5. Collection Alfredo Hertzog da Silva.
“It’s not easy being green!”, 2003, Artist's book, 21,5 x 14 cm. Courtesy Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro.
The Alba Flag, 2001, cloth, 137 x 88 cm. Courtesy Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro.
The Alba Headline Supercollider, 2004, interactive digital work, 47 x 39 cm. Collection Alfredo Hertzog da Silva.
Featherless, 2006, painted resin, 25 x 6 x 4 cm. Courtesy Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro.
Boulevard Alba, 2006, enamled steel, 45 x 39 cm. Courtesy Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro.
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