He discusses some of the aesthetic and ethical issues involved in using DNA in art. Since the late s I have been breeding plants, concentrating on the native irises of California and Oregon. I have also bred other ornamentals, including daylilies, streptocarpuses, nasturtiums, and several kinds of poppies. For the last fourteen years I have exhibited live hybrids, as well as documentation of my breeding projects. When I first exhibited plant hybrids as art I expected to have to defend my work against criticism that plants were not art, but no one, then or now, has raised that question, at least not in conversation with me or in print.
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From to the present, his work has focused on the overlap between art and genetics, with a particular interest in plant aesthetics and the ways that human aesthetic preferences affect evolution. Tell us about your garden. The only dedicated areas are for plant breeding — irises mostly. The garden is home to lots of birds and animals. This Christmas our present to one another was a wildlife camera, which we set up on our compost heap. The very first night we got good pictures of two foxes sorting through the kitchen scraps.
My job is to facilitate. The job of the artist is not so much to create, as to help what is latent in things manifest itself. In a way the job of the artist is to leave himself out. In the light of art, the challenge for the plant breeder is to recognize aesthetic value in new life forms. This is easier said than done. In any breeding project there are always far more new plants than space to grow them out for more than a little while, so most have to be composted.
What obstructed me from recognizing it was usually my original vision. Having a vision is necessary for any breeding project, but can becomes a hindrance when it is too rigidly adhered to. One must always be ready for the unexpected, for new life that is just as good or better than what one sought. That no longer happens. In the context of art, plants have become one more accepted medium that can convey different, even contradictory values.
Today bio art is still widely considered somewhat adventurous, yet Jeff Koons, whose work encapsulates dominant values of consumer culture, uses live plants in installations. Green Light: Towards an Art of Evolution The bio art that interests me explores the question: who are we in relation to other forms of life? Can we interact with them, including on the genetic level, in ways that are not merely exploitative? Can our interactions bring joy into the world?
Thank you for speaking with us George! George is supporting our crowdfunding effort to develop color changing flowers with signed copies of Green Light: Towards an Art of Evolution. The crowdfunding campaign goes live 3 Mar — sign up here! Leave a Reply Your email address will not be published.
Bioart through evolution: George Gessert