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Gene(sis): Online Art

Shawn Brixey, Richard Rinehart, Chimera Obscura, 2002, Multimedia installation linked to the Internet, Courtesy the artists

Two of the art works in the exhibition Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics are online art works as well as gallery installations. We invite you to explore them here in their native medium.

Chimera Obscura
Created by new media artists Shawn Brixey and Richard Rinehart, Chimera Obscura is an interactive installation commissioned by the Henry Art Gallery especially for the Gene(sis) exhibition. The artwork occupies two spaces: the museum and the Internet. Net users navigate an informational "maze" after logging onto the Chimera Obscura website. This on-line navigational activity triggers the physical motion of the sculptural installation located in the gallery. The installation includes a video web camera, a large-scale maze in the shape of a human thumbprint, and a three-dimensional robotic space plotter. Sequencing the human genome requires developing a system for understanding how bits of information accumulate, relate to, and influence each other. Chimera Obscura offers visitors the opportunity to participate in a model of such an information system.

Public discourse uses several problematic metaphors to explain the Human Genome Project. It is most often characterized as an enormous effort of information and word processing, with a mission of "reading" and "editing." Such phrases as "breaking the code," "reading the book of life," "mapping our genes" imply the success of reading, managing and controlling this (textual) genomic information. In his transgenic installation Genesis (1999), Eduardo Kac problematizes these metaphors, highlighting how our use of language frames our understanding of genomics.

Visit the Gene(sis) Exhibition Website.

The exhibition was organized by the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, in affiliation with the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The exhibition is curated by the Henry Art Gallery’s Associate Curator Robin Held and, for the Berkeley presentation, BAM/PFA Senior Curator for Exhibitions Constance Lewallen and Associate Curator Alla Efimova.

The exhibition and related programs are made possible with generous support from the Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts, funded by the Ford Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Rockefeller Foundation; The Allen Foundation for the Arts; PONCHO; The Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities; SAFECO; King County Arts Commission Special Projects Program; ZymoGenetics, Inc.; and The University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences, as well as in-kind support from Carl Zeiss, Inc.; The Grand Hyatt Seattle; Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media; KUOW Public Radio; WRQ, Inc.; New Concepts Prototyping; Speakeasy Network; Northwest Mannequin; University of Washington Division of Genetic Pathology; and University Bookstore Computer and Electronics Center.

The BAM/PFA presentation of Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics is supported by the Consortium for the Arts, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, and UC Extension at UC Berkeley, and by The Harold and Alma White Memorial Fund. The exclusive media sponsor for Gene(sis) is San Francisco Bay Guardian.