“I create my works to accept and incorporate the reactions of and decisions made by the participants…[I] make a concerted effort to remain truly open to the participants’ choices and behaviors, to give up a substantial portion of control over the experience of the work…”
-Eduardo Kac, “GFP Bunny,” 2003
Eduardo Kac is the “transgenic” artist who, along with geneticist Louis-Marie Houdebine, was involved in making an albino bunny that glowed green under the right light because of a spliced gene from fluorescent jellyfish.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the patterns I “print” on the world: the conceptual frameworks by which I make meaning. It’s fun to start tracing them out, and once I look, they’re everywhere: or rather, they’re what I’m looking through. It’s my identity framework that has me answer “I teach” (instead of “I lie on the floor with a cat sometimes”) when asked “What do you do,” and it’s my capitalistic framework that defends bodily autonomy by insisting that each of us “owns” our own body. The frameworks in my head each seem to have undergone a similar process: at first I constructed them from experiences I had, from things I was told, from patterns that were suggested to me. Then I started going around, applying them outward. At some point in childhood, I largely transitioned from asking “What is that” to having a stamp and ink and , consciously or unconsciously, putting my seal of “this” on what I saw. This is a job (and by the way it’s how you define yourself). This is property. This is a blog post. In all of these, I pull experience and action through the frameworks of my concepts, and that’s how I start to understand. I wonder if I can flip that system. Instead of “printing” my conception of reality onto the world, of imposing my pattern outward, can I think of myself as a participatory part of patterns beyond what I understand? When I think, can I understand myself as “printed on” by the world?
In some ways, the quote from Kac takes a step in the direction I’m fumbling toward. He talks about “giving up” control, about being “truly open” to others’ decisions and behaviors. I wonder if the wish he’s acting from is similar to my wish. At the same time, the structure of his thinking still seems to assume that he has the control to give up. You can’t give up what’s not yours. To put it another way, he starts with “I create my works…” What happens if we start with, “Look at all this, me included, that this world is creating…”