Students research animals on Chinese zodiac wheel based on their sign, and propose specific menus. Students forage campus to taste food. Discussion of complexity of animals in food chain and in laboratory experiments. Study based on decade-long collaboration between media artist/instructor and neuroscientist Siddharth Ramakrishnan.


Wuhan market -- wild animals

Prof.  Victoria Vesna, Ph.D.

  • Design Media Arts, Art | Sci Center, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA – 90095, vesna@arts.ucla.edu
  • Program in Empowerment Informatics, School of Integrative and Global Majors University of Tsukuba, Tennodai, Tsukuba 305-8573, Japan

Prof. Siddharth Ramakrishnan, Ph.D.

  • Neuroscience Program, Department of Biology, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA -98416, rsiddhur@gmail.com


Professors Vesna and Ramakrishnan come together from very different disciplines – (media) art and (neuro)science – to create an interactive work that engages the audience in a way that takes them out of the anthropocentric point of view. With this collaborative project, the authors wish to break this “human” barrier and allow an exploration and identification of the diverse world of the animals around us. The Hox Zodiac allows the human-audience to experience the shared history and potential of genetic diversity among animals. Here, the idea of the Hox gene as a binding element is introduced and the Chinese animal zodiac and dinner table as the structure / space for discussion is employed, allowing the format to build based on the audience interaction. In neuroscience this is the emergent property of network connections, where a simple array of neurons can give rise to complex behaviors through interactions and adaptations. Responding to the emergent nature of the game-like environment of the ancient Book of Change, the I Ching, and the related work of John Cage serve as base for the conceptual framework of the project. Similar to Cage’s ideas of chance 2 and indeterminacy, this work looks to the ancient Eastern philosophies along with the scientific research, seeking the balance between rational and irrational, conscious and unconscious – in relation to our interconnectivity with the animal kingdom. This paper describes the research process and variations that emerged with audience participation and interaction.