Last summer, scientists announced to the world that they had completed a rough map of the human genome the genetic blue print of the human race. For a perspective on genetic breakthroughs like you”ve never experienced before, visit the University of Michigan Museum of Art”s exhibition, “Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution.” You are guaranteed to be impressed, dazzled and to stare in awe for hours no kidding. The exhibit will run through May 27, and will feature a panel discussion April 11 from 5 7 p.m. that will be moderated by University President Lee Bollinger.

Paul Wong
Susan Anker”s “”Zoosemiotics”” is one of the stunning pieces in “”Paradise Now.””<br><br>Courtesy of Museum of Art

Undoubtedly, decoding the human genome is one of the most groundbreaking accomplishments in scientific history. Biotechnology will give science, medicine, agriculture and business unprecedented opportunities for growth and advancement. With the developments come progress and excitement, but also protest and debate. While some people see the developments with enormous promise, others view genetic research as a formidable threat. From either perspective, it is a universal truth that genetic research is rewriting the definition of life. During this scientific transition, artists can be invaluable guides and interpreters. By creating images that express the abstract concepts and new possibilities accompanying the genetic revolution, they remind us of the implications genetic research has for society.

“Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution” is the first major exhibition of contemporary art to address the deep questions associated with biotechnological research. The exhibit, featuring 34 works by 18 artists, explores artists” reactions to genetic discoveries, and to the broader ethical and societal implications raised by advancements in the field. “Paradise Now” gives voice to the humanistic meanings of genetic exploration by drawing parallels between scientific research and other forms of creative expression. The exhibit is part of an effort to establish a relationship between the artistic community at the University and other disciplines, such as the sciences. The Museum of Art seeks to present art that will engage audiences beyond only those dedicated to an interest in the fine arts.

If you have only a few minutes, take a second to drop in and see “Mother and Child.” This “living” work of art is made from genetically engine red grass. The large-scale portrait of a mother and child appears to be an eloquent black and white photo from afar, but with a closer look, you”ll be spellbound to see the individual blades of green grass from which the portrait is composed. The artists, Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, approached a team of scientists to design them genetically modified grass that keeps its green color, even under stress.

“Paradise Now” is also likely your only opportunity to see a bold and colorful work of art grown from colored bacteria. By sealing the air into the work, artist David Kremer was able to put the work, “Biogenesis,” into a period of stasis. If placed in an incubation room, however, the living image will continue to grow.

The best thing about “Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution” is that you don”t need a concentration in History of Art to appreciate it or understand it. No matter what your background is, it”s sure to hold your interest. You”re guaranteed to say the word “cool” at least a dozen times. Enjoy.

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