Reflections on the Snake, Dragon, and Rabbit

As an art history major, the scientific aspects that we discussed during our last meeting were very interesting, but also quite obscure and new to me. I found it fascinating that despite all our differences, all humans and animals are much more alike than one may think—given that our bodies are all structured according to the same set of hox genes.

Regarding the snake, I had previously heard about collecting snake venom for medicinal purposes, but Davood’s scientific breakdown of how the venom actually functions and the responses it can provoke on an immunological level was extremely insightful.

In thinking about the other animals which we touched upon, namely the Dragon and the Rabbit, I found myself naturally drawn to the historical background and cultural perception of each animal. As someone of Chinese descent and born in the year of the Dragon, I have always viewed the mythical creature under a positive light, and was told by my parents that my Chinese zodiac sign being the Dragon was an auspicious sign synonymous with power and good luck. It is very intriguing to consider the distinctions between Western and Chinese perceptions of the Dragon; despite growing up in the West, it never really occurred to me that dragons were perceived as evil creatures that needed to be slain throughout the prevalent depictions in medieval times to more recent pop culture.

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about the Rabbit—and specifically the image of the fluorescent green rabbit which we saw in our last meeting. I had previously done some research on the topic of BioArt and the image reminded me of an exhibition at MoMA entitled "Design and the Elastic Mind," which was focused on the intersection of technology, art, and science. Prior to learning about the MoMA exhibition, I had pretty strong feelings on BioArt because I had only heard about the fluorescent rabbit as well as similar experiments (I believe some BioArtists conducted an experiment in which they ended up with a pink chicken). Lumping all of BioArt under the same category, it seemed to me that it was highly unethical to subject animals to such pointless experiments for the sake of sparking a reaction from art audiences. However, upon doing more research, I realized that the field of BioArt was much larger and actually dealt with real-word issues. Reaching into the field of speculative design, works by the designer Neri Oxman consists of large architectural structures entirely woven and shaped by silkworms. While it wasn't from the MoMA exhibition, another work which drew my attention was a set of small objects created from the leftover blood thrown away by meat-processing factories to raise awareness of the enormous amount of waste by the meat industry.

Figure 1. Neri Oxman and Mediated Matter Group, Silk Pavilion, 2013.

Figure 2. Basse Stittgen, Blood Related, 2017.

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