ART: Genpets

Media : Styrene Plastic, Co-Poly Plastic, Latex rubber, Polyurethane Foam, Kryolan SFX Make-up, Microchips, Motors, Printed circuits, Steel, Acrylic Plastic, Creatix airbrush paint, Paper, Screen printed acetate, Fimo, Sculpy, Video, 3DS Max4, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Adobe Indesign.
Process media (molds + original sculptures) : Silicon rubber, Hydrocal Plaster, Clay, Roma Plastalina, Smooth-on 300 series plastic.
Scale : (each package) 298 x 244 x 76 mm, 11.8 x 9.5 x 3 inches

Imagine walking into a department store or any big box store, and while browsing an aisle you find a display where packages hang; which, at first glance, seem to contain large action figures. Upon closer inspection, you realize they are actually bizarre, altered, bipedal mammals sealed in a plastic bubble where they uneasily rest in some kind of induced hibernation.
A series of glowing and beeping heart monitors on the packages gives a hint that they are alive. The rising and falling of their chests as well as their occasional twitching, shaking and clawing, albeit limited by the tie-wraps, which keep them in place, confirms the life of these creatures. They are there, ready to take home and add to your life as the next entertainment gadget; bioengineered creatures, mass-produced, and pre-packaged for your convenience.

1. First off, everything’s done from scratch, by hand. The plastics, circuitry, robotics, creatures, all of it. From clay to mould, to casting. No team of people or large mass production lines, just blood and sweat (.. burns). Check the How-to page if you’re curious.

2. Secondly I’m not against bioengineering, I’m simply hesitant towards where and how and by whom the technology will be used. That’s what this sculpture sums up. Read on if you’re curious.

In the end, research follows funding and many times funding leads out of commercial profit. Thus Genpets takes a step back to examine trends in the pet craze and ponder where a new technology like Biotech might take it (there are already companies such as Allerca though selling bioengineered pets in reality, or Glofish in Asia).
Genpets also echoes current situations. While the pets in plastic disturbs many, how is this much different from a pet store? Glass versus plastic is not a huge change, but taken in a different context causes a reaction. Perhaps a more critical step is to look into the basis for Genpets.

I think it’s important to take a critical look at both sides of an issue before coming to any sort of conclusion. Bioengineering could lead to medical breakthroughs that save lives, but will it? Genpets is more of a critique of corporate ethics than anything else.

3. If you’re still caught up on whether they’re real or not, that’s ok, a lot of people are, but that’s not the point of the work and that’s why there’s an explanation here in the open, easy to find. Slow down, stop, and think. Think about why it is that you probably, like most people seeing the work, find it highly disturbing on some level, and yet, still want to buy one. Why is it that you’re so inclined to buy things, no matter what? And what is it that makes this concept so disturbing, or not disturbing to you? Consider both sides of the issue, and consider how we treat animals in farms, and pet stores today. How does that relate?

What are Genpets? You tell me.
Genpets seem to create a reaction wherever they go. While in the store window of Iodine Toronto, the shop owner began sleeping in the store as many nights, people would bang at the windows furiously. Some in protest of the small bio-genetically engineered creatures trapped in plastic, some wanting to wake them up or buy them. Hordes of teens wanting a bioengineered pet met confused, baffled, or even shocked looks from parents. For an upcoming generation, through our own marketing techniques, life and the idea of life are quickly becoming viewed as disposable commodities.
To dismiss Genpets as a ‘hoax’ would be to completely miss the point. The spirit of art is to create an illusion. Genpets is designed ‘as is’ to help the viewer ponder the idea a bit longer.

The experience of a grainy photo is different than standing face to face with a breathing, sleeping Genpet, but for many the Internet is the optimal means of exposure.
This sculpture is the physical representation of a question. Bioengineering, like any new technology promises a great deal of positive effects. We as a race however tend to put a great deal more faith into technology as a saviour than it necessarily has earned. Through Genpets I question the negative effect that bioengineering can have, for we all know that when it all comes down to it, profit is the bottom line of any new technology.
The question surrounding bioengineering is not in it’s positive or negative ramifications, or where it can take us; it is whether or not we are responsible enough to go there.

Thank you: Manaf Fahkro, Caroline Langill, Simone Jones, Ben Dickerson & Crystal Pallister, Rob Sherwin.

Other items in the Genpets folder: > Where > How > Why