The goal of the Hox Zodiac project is to entice the audience with these fascinating genes that are responsible for many different variations of legs, arms and other parts of the body exist in the animal kingdom.
Victoria Vesna in collaboration with neuroscientist Siddharth Ramakrishnan has been developing this interactive artwork for the past four years. The most recent exhibition was at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Taipei where the audience actively participated and contributed to this roundtable, participatory, performative work.
The Homeobox (hox) genes essentially define body regions in all animals including humans – responsible for determining two arms, two legs, one nose and so on. This gene is shared by all living beings – from flies to whales to humans – and they can now be manipulated into deliberate transformations of existing body parts into others. It is hypothesized that engineering the Hox could lead to groundbreaking work in the fields of limb and organ regeneration.
The goal of the Hox Zodiac project is to entice the audience with these fascinating genes that are responsible for many different variations of legs, arms and other parts of the body exist in the animal kingdom. We create an experiential space that relates the idea that we are all interconnected and evolutionarily share the same genes.
The Chinese zodiac was chosen as an interactive model as it offers a wide spectrum of animals, representing the myriad of morphological possibilities that the Hox genes can encode. Further, the audience member can identify with an animal corresponding with his or her own zodiac sign, adding another level of interaction. We designed the interface as a round dining table, with seating for each animal of the Chinese zodiac. Cushions on the floor, with plates depicting each zodiac creature allowed the user to identify their sign and take a seat at the table. A lazy-susan at the center of the table contained petri-dishes with different Chinese medicinal herbs in them – one associated with each member of the Chinese zodiac. This idea emerged on location, through research with the local population in Hong Kong, that each animal of the zodiac governs a different organ in the body and there are specific medications that are used to cure malfunctions of these organs.