Originally published in the catalogue of "Genesis", published by O.K. Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, 1999, pp. 41-43.
Eduardo Kac could be described as a prototypical representative of the new art that has emerged as a direct analogy to the digital revolution and the information theories and technologies, on which it is based.
Like a researcher, he is constantly in search of new methods and tools, scanning the territories of technical science with in-depth analysis to find new forms of expression for his artistic intentions and to expand his stores of artistic material. Now, following holography, telerobotics and the Internet, molecular biology is the new field of natural science, in which his artistic work is located.
Rather than limiting himself to the role of interpreting or commenting, he intervenes directly in the technical-systemic and social-structural constituents, not merely to change traditional artistic patterns and behavioral schemata, but rather to re-invent them. His strategy for this is to approach the topic with ever new premises from constantly changed perspectives.
Even in his holographic works in the early eighties, which he characterized as "holopoetry", he was not so much concerned with the possibility of the three-dimensional representation of objects as with the use of temporal processes in an image medium. He dissolved the linearity of the work presentation in favor of an almost hypertextual presentation, in which the role of the observer is expanded into that of an active recipient. These holographic language montages are among the few attempts to develop new directions for experimental poetry with the technical possibilities of new media.
The greatest part of his previous work has involved telecommunication and telepresence, and in this the perception of reality, the communication of presence, is his central concern. Consequently, even in his early telerobotic projects the body, its sensorial potential, has always been the focal point.
The human-machine interface, taken in a broader sense as a context for experience, is also seen in works such as "Ornitorrinco" (1989), developed with Ed Bennett, or even more elaborately in "Rara Avis" (1996), an interactive telepresence installation, in which a telerobotic bird-machine is put together with real birds and artificial plants in an enclosure. Using data glasses or via Internet, visitors are not only able to control the head of the cybernetic bird, but also to assume its perspective, observe themselves with its camera eyes.
In addition to his work "A-Positive" at ISEA 97 in Chicago, also with Bennett, Eduardo Kac has opened up a new artistic terrain in particular with his "Time Capsule."
As part of an exhibition project, on November 11, 1997, he implanted an identification microchip (like those used to find and identify lost or stolen animals) in his ankle and registered the code stored in this chip in an international database. What this work questions, in addition to the issue of the unremitting surveillance of the visible human, who is made so through information and genetic technologies, is primarily the increasingly more complex and far-reaching processes of connecting living beings with machines.
Eduardo Kac calls "transgenic art" the new artistic terrain that he traverses with genetic engineering, and with his project "Genesis", shown for the first time at Ars Electronica 99, he demonstrates how this is to be understood.
Artists such as Eduardo Kac are working on proposals for our immediate future, in which the traditional differentiation between natural and artificial, which has been constructed along the lines of the concepts organic and self-organized for living beings and externally determined for machines, will no longer be valid. This is a development that challenges us to a new self-comprehension as human beings not only at a philosophical level, but also and as least as much at the level of so-called ordinary common sense.
If we go on from the representation and simulation of life to the creation and shaping of life, then this is an area, from which art cannot abstain.
Gerfried Stocker is an artist and since 1995 he has been the artistic director of the Ars Electronica Festival and the managing director of the Ars Electronica Center.
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