We've discussed artist Jonathon Keats before here on WU. Back in June 2009
, Chuck referred to him as an artist "whose mind is either way ahead of ours, or way behind ours, but definitely not even-up with ours." That was when Keats had recently published a short story, nine words long, written in a special kind of ink that would only become visible very slowly, at the rate of a century per word.
But Keats has been active since then. He's got a new installation titled "Cloning Celebrity" at San Francisco's Modernism Gallery. Here's a description
In five pilot studies at the AC Institute, Keats is epigenetically cloning five celebrities. His subjects are some of the most popular people alive, and some of the most widely emulated, including Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps and Barack Obama. He has metabolically analyzed each by assessing their gross biochemical intake, and is methodically exposing large populations of living cells to similar chemical formulae, systematically activating epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. While the cells are not human, they are known to be genetically similar to Homo sapiens, and have been used as model organisms in the world's leading laboratories. Keats is epigenetically cloning Obama, Phelps and Gaga in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as brewer's yeast.
Dan Schifrin, writing in jweekly.com
, describes some of Keats's other projects:
Keats made his debut in 2000 at Refusalon in San Francisco, where he sat in a chair and thought for 24 hours, with a female model posing nude in the gallery. His thoughts were sold to patrons as art, at a price determined by dividing their annual income down to the minute...
In 2004, in collaboration with U.C. Berkeley geneticists, Keats attempted to genetically engineer God in a laboratory. Keats determined that God bore a striking genetic similarity to algae, but — employing proper scientific language — he acknowledged that the study was "not definitive."...
He also was commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum to make a modern version of manna, which he interpreted as a pillbox full of placebos — manna being whatever medicine was needed at that moment.