I was floored by this article, so here it is posted online. Thank you so much Frank for your kind words.
Tech-savvy sculptor says pet project is satire
By Frank bentayou, Plain Dealer Reporter
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Edition: Final, Section: Arts & Life, Page E1 Zone All
Would you love to have a cuddly little creature around the house but aren't keen on 5 a.m. dog walks, cat-litter patrol or the cold stare of a tropical lizard?
Consider Genpets, the latest no-fuss, bioengineered domestic life forms.
You can learn about these trademarked, "prepackaged . . . living, breathing genetic animals," as promotional material calls them, by calling up www.genpets.com.
But, first, a confession: Genpets aren't what they seem and aren't really alive.
They're part of an art installation, a creation of Canadian sculptor and Web designer Adam Brandejs, and owe less to the burgeoning science of bioengineering than to an ancient tradition that art often must take a role in satirizing, criticizing, even mocking features of human behavior that defy survival, integrity and plain old good sense.
These faux life forms are actually molded plastic figures that Brandejs and his girlfriend, Crystal Pallister, packed with robotic devices that make the dolls' chests heave and monitors blink within their plastic packages.
A hope underlying satire is that it might awaken viewers to some new awareness. Brandejs' Genpets are weird, even creepy, but seem to carry a message about the limits of tampering with life for commercial purposes.
The 24-year-old artist, fresh out of Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, already is receiving worldwide attention through his thought-provoking art installations. And, in fact, Genpets is part of one of the most original sculptural, electronic and conceptual artworks you can find on the Internet - or anywhere else.
In part, it focuses on one of the most bizarre ideas of 2006: living pets "engineered" from the DNA of various life forms (apparently, including humans), alive and hibernating, stocked on retail shelves and programmed to bond with whoever buys and awakens them and to be trouble-free for their new owners.
Brandejs said people have responded in droves, with anywhere from 5,000 to more than a million discreet hits per day on the Web site. Visitors send often-scathing e-mails.
Some have seen the elaborate display as an ethically outrageous effort that renegade scientists cooked up to commercialize bioengineering. Others have groused that the phenomenon is nothing more than a sleazy hoax designed to sell ugly rubber dolls.
"It's neither," Brandejs said. He's not selling his models via Genpets.com, and they certainly are not alive.
He conceived of and created Genpets as his art-school thesis, but he enjoyed the concept so much, he kept working on it. "It went a little overboard," he said.
Overboard? The Web site links to convincing published articles, scientific details and graphics as well as to "product" features (each package includes a heart monitor to show that the pet is "alive"), a bogus online store selling accessories and "nutrient packs," and even a 20-page catalog aimed at recruiting wholesalers and investors.
Brandejs has shown his installation - including packaged Genpets hanging from a retail display rack, Web site, multimedia presentations and artifacts - at galleries around Canada.
The work most recently hit Basel, Switzerland. All the attention drew interest to
his earlier student work. Exhibits are scheduled in Hamburg, Germany; Toronto,
and New York this fall.
The modest artist acknowledges a strain of edgy, deadpan satire. (An online portfolio at www.brandejs.ca shows more of his work.) Packaged pets, for example, are available in pre-programmed one- or three-year life-span models, depending on buyer preference.
That seems a grimly witty commentary on how people may want pets, but not the long-term responsibilities they often demand.
"I have a definite interest in materialism and consumer culture," Brandejs said. And he prefers "dealing with issues that we like to sweep under the carpet."
Genpets' issues include the dark implications of bioengineering at the service of modern convenience, "but also how animals are already treated in pet stores and factory farms. They've become a consumable good," Brandejs said.
He received no grants or other support for his student works. Instead, he financed materials and months of toil with jobs as a Web developer/designer.
The source of his inspiration? "It would be impossible to ignore issues such as technology and convenience, as art must reflect the times," Brandejs said.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADAM BRANDEJS Artist Adam Brandejs'
attention to commercial details focuses the sharp satire of his Genpets
installation on ethical questions regarding both bio- engineering and the
treatment of animals.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADAM BRANDEJS Toronto artist
Adam Brandejs created 19 robotic Genpets for his art installation by that name,
each packaged with a blinking heart monitor and pulsing apparatus to make it
appear as if it's breathing. "The Web site is part of the installation," he
says. "But actually to see the installation in a gallery, with all these little
guys breathing, is kind of creepy."
Listening to: lovely day remix
Reading: looking for a new microchip programmer