OK, I find an old paperback of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the house a few days ago and haven’t been able to put it down. So maybe I’m sensitized to the book’s themes, but I really didn’t expect to find Shelley’s ideas so explicitly animated in the present day, with a slight twist:
In a promethean leap, man and plant become one, creating new life.
Meet Edunia, the “plantimal” love child of artist/biodesigner Eduardo Kac, “who doesn’t merely incorporate existing living things in his artworks—he tries to create new life-forms.”
“It lives. It is real, as real as you and I,” says Kac, a Brazil native living in Chicago. “Except nature didn’t make it, I did.”
“Kac selected the pink petunia, in large part because of the distinct red veins that hint at his own red blood. And though he refers to his creation as a “plantimal,” that may be overstating the case. The organism has only a minuscule stretch of human DNA amid many thousands of plant genes.”
“The DNA sequence was sent to Neil Olszewski, a plant biologist at the University of Minnesota…After six years of tinkering, the artist-scientist duo inserted a copy of Kac’s immunoglobulin gene fragment into a common breed of the flower Petunia hybrida.
“It’s not the first transgenic plant…’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.'”
The tragedy and downfall of the scientist Frankenstein unfolds when he is unable to love his hideous creation. To be honest, I’d have some trouble loving a petunia. An agave, however, is another matter entirely.
Read more here.