Eduardo Kac

Eduardo Kac [ɛdwardoʊ kæts; ĕd·wâr′·dō kăts] (1962) is a Brazilian-American contemporary artist and professor whose artworks that span a wide range of practices, including performance art, poetry, holography, interactive art, telematic art and transgenic art. He is particularly well known for his works that integrate biotechnology, politics and aesthetics.

Eduardo Kac
Eduardo Kac - Genesis - Ars Electronica 99.jpg
Eduardo Kac's installation Genesis, displayed at the 1999 Ars Electronica Festival.
AwardsArs Electronica Golden Nica

Kac began his art career in the early 1980s as performance artist in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Within a few years he was involved in exploring holography as an interactive art form. At the same time, he began creating animated poetic works on the French Minitel platform.

Before moving from Brazil to the United States in the late 1980s, Kac began creating his first telematic artworks that used electronic technologies to bridge two or more physical locations. During the 1990s he continued to produce these works, at the same time as he coined the phrase bioart. In addition to bioart Kac coined numerous neologisms to describe his transdisciplinary art practice, including holoart, transgenic art (the integration of human genes in an artwork) and plantimal, referring to a plant infused with human genes.[1]

Kac is perhaps best known for his transgenic artworks that use biotechnology to intervene on the natural genetic structure of plants and animals. His works Time Capsule, GFP Bunny and Natural History of the Enigma in particular are recognized as notable works for having joined biotechnology, art and bioethics together into politically charged artworks.

In 2017 Kac collaborated with the French Space Observatory office to have a sculpture made aboard the international space station.

A multidisciplinary artist, Kac has also employed poetry, fax, photocopying, photography, video, fractals, poetry, RFID implants, virtual reality, networks, robotics, satellites, telerobotics, Morse code and DNA extraction in his practice.[1]


Kac was born July 3, 1962 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[2][3] He studied at the School of Communications of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, receiving a BA degree in 1985,[2][4] and then at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he received an MFA degree in 1990.[2] In 2003 he received a doctorate from the University of Wales, Great Britain.[5] Kac is a professor of art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.[5]

Art careerEdit


Between 1980 and 1982, Kac belonged to a group that did performance art in the Cinelandia area of Rio de Janeiro.[6][7] The performances, a response to the extreme conservative political climate of Brazil under military dictatorship, became known as Movimento de Arte Pornô (Porn Art Movement).[8]

Beginning in 1983, Kac created holographic poetry works, the first of which was HOLO/OLHO, named after the Portuguese word for "eye".[9] 24 holographic poems followed this first work,[10] including Quando (When?) (1987), a moebius-like work that could be read in two directions.[11]

Around the same time, and drawing on his interest in experimental poetry forms, Kac began making animated poetry works with the French Minitel videotext terminals that were then in use in Rio.[12] In 1985 he contributed one such work, Reabracadabra, to the Arte On Line exhibition, organized by the Livraria Nobel bookstore in São Paulo.[13][14][15] Other videotext animated poems by Kac include Recaos (1986), Tesão (1985/86) and D/eu/s (1986).[16][17] In 1986, with Flavio Ferraz, Kac organized the Brasil High-Tech exhibition at the Galeria de Arte Centro Empresarial Rio in Rio de Janeiro.[18][19]

From 1985 to as late as 1994, Kac did a number of telecommunications performances that used Slow-scan television (SSTV) and FAX technologies to create performances between separate locations.[20][21]

In the late 80s Kac began work on his Ornitorrinco project, a telepresence artwork made in collaboration with Ed Bennett in Chicago. The work brought together robotics, telecommunications technologies and interactivity to create a robot that was controlled remotely. The piece allowed viewers in one location to control the robot's camera and motion, creating a telepresent work and effecting the experience of viewers in the other location.[22][23]

In 1989 Kac moved from Brazil to Chicago, where he would complete his MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago the following year.[3]


In the 1990s, Kac continued creating telematic works, with Dialogical Drawing (1994)[24] and Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1994) both using networks to explore the viewer experience of an artwork mediated between two site in real time. In the latter case, the artwork joined a plant in New York city and a live canary in Kentucky in conversation.[25] The inclusion of a bird as part of its system, making it an early example of what Kac called transgenic art.[26]

In Teleporting An Unknown State (1994–96), Kac built a system that allowed a plant to survive in a gallery, illuminated not by sunlight but by the internet viewers of the work. In practice, online viewers of the work triggered a video projection onto the plant of an image representing the sky in the viewer's home location.[27][28][29]

Notably, Kac coined the term "bioart" with his 1997 performance work Time Capsule.[30][31] In Time Capsule, Kac implanted himself with an RFID chip originally designed for use in pets. A participant in Chicago then triggered the RFID scanned in the Brazilian Gallery where Kac was performing, casing the scanner to display a unique code for the implant. Kac then registered himself on the pet database associated with the implant, becoming the first human to do so.[32][33][34]

By the late 90s Kac defined himself either a "transgenic artist" or "bio artist,"[35] and was using biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works that concomitantly explore scientific techniques and critique them.[36]

Kac's next transgenic artwork, created in 1998/99 and titled "Genesis," involved him taking a quote from the Bible (Genesis 1:26 - "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth"), transferring it into Morse code, and finally, translating that Morse code (by a conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work) into the base pairs of genetics.[37][38]

Participants were then able to shine ultraviolet lights onto the base pair of genetics thus altering it. So when Kac translated it back to English, it said something completely different. This work sparked a conversation about how meaning can change throughout translation.


In one of his best known works, Alba, presented in 2000 in Avignon, France, Kac claimed to have commissioned a French laboratory to create a green-fluorescent rabbit; a rabbit implanted with a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) gene from a type of jellyfish.[39][40] Under a specific blue light, the rabbit fluoresces green. The work proved to be hugely controversial,[41][42] which was later mitigated by the revelation that the GFP process was not new but was, rather, already in use on rabbits at the lab in question.[39][43] Kac's original aim was for Alba to live with his family, but prior to the scheduled release of Alba to Kac, the lab retracted their agreement and decided that Alba should remain in the lab.[44][45]

His work Natural History of the Enigma (2003-8) continued in the theme of bio art by merging his DNA with that of a petunia, creating a hybrid organism that Kac called a plantimal.[46][47] The plant, also given the name Eudinia (from Eduardo and Petunia), mimicked the flow of blood through human veins by mixing Kac's DNA only with the plant's genetic components that made the veins in its leaves red.[46][48]


In 2017 Kac collaborated with the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet to create an artwork in space called Inner Telescope.[49] Following Kac's instructions, Pesquet cut and folded a piece of paper into a sculptural form that could be read as the three letters forming the French word for me, M-O-I.[50][51]

Permanent collectionsEdit

Kac's work is included in the permanent collections of the Institute Valencia in Valencia, Spain[52] and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.[53] Several of Kac's artist books are included in the library of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.[54]


In 1998 he received the Leonardo Award for Excellence from ISAST. In 1999, he received the Inter Communication Center (Tokyo) Biennial Award in 1999.[6]

In 2002 he received the Creative Capital Award in the discipline of Emerging Fields.[55]

In 2008 he received the Golden Nica award at Ars Electronica for his project Natural History of the Enigma.[56]


Books by Eduardo Kac

  • Kac, Eduardo. Luz & Letra: Ensaios De Arte, Literatura E Comunicação [Eng.: Light & Lyrics: Essays on Art, Literature and Communication]." Rio De Janeiro: Contra Capa, 2004.
  • Kac, Eduardo. Telepresence & Bio Art: Networking Humans, Rabbits, & Robots. Foreword James Elkins. Ann Arbor, Michigan: U Michigan P, 2005.
  • Kac, Eduardo. "Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond", MIT Press, Cambridge, 2007, ISBN 0-262-11293-0

Catalogues and Monographs of Eduardo Kac's exhibitions

  • Kac, Eduardo. Hodibis Potax: Poetry Anthology [Oeuvres poétiques]. Ivry-sur-Seine, France: Édition Action Poétique, 2007. [Published on the occasion of the solo exhibition Hodibis Potax, by Eduardo Kac, realized in the context of Biennale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne (Poetry Biennial, France), May 2007.]
  • Eduardo Kac: Histoire Naturelle de L'Enigma et Autres Travaux / Eduardo Kac: Natural History of the Enigma and Other Works. Poitiers, France: Al Dante Éditions, 2009. ["Ouvrage conçu & par les éditions Al Dante à l'occasion de l'exposition énonyme au centre d'art comtemporain Rurart... en partenariat avec l'espace Mendes France (centre de culture scientifique) de 8 octobre au 20 decembre 2009." / "Book edition designed by Al Dante on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition at Rurart Contemporary Art Center ... in partnership with Espace Mendes France (Center of Science and Culture,) from October 8 to December 20, 2009."] Additional publication information quoted from the title page of this catalogue.

Books about the Art of Eduardo Kac

  • Rossi, Elena Giulia (ed.). "Eduardo Kac : Move 36" Filigranes Éditions, Paris, 2005, ISBN 2-35046-012-6.
  • The Eighth Day: The Trangenic Art of Eduardo Kac. Eds. Sheilah Britton and Dan Collins. Tempe, Arizona: The Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University, 2003. ISBN 0-9724291-0-7.


  1. ^ a b Kalenberg, Ángel. "Eduardo Kac: The Artist as Demiurge".
  2. ^ a b c "Eduardo Kac - Brazilian American artist".
  3. ^ a b Richard Kostelanetz (13 May 2013). A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes. Routledge. pp. 2–. ISBN 1-136-80620-2.
  4. ^ "NewsByte - Duke Art, Art History and Visual Studies".
  5. ^ a b "ekac". School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  6. ^ a b "Eduardo Kac (biography)".
  7. ^ Simone Osthoff (2009). Performing the Archive: The Transformation of the Archive in Contemporary Art from Repository of Documents to Art Medium. Atropos Press. ISBN 978-0-9825309-0-0.
  8. ^ "DOCUMENTING THE VISUAL: Building a Latin American Collection at the MoMA Library". 27 March 2018.
  9. ^ Barbara Brownie (18 December 2014). Transforming Type: New Directions in Kinetic Typography. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 57–. ISBN 978-0-85785-566-4.
  10. ^ Marie-Laure Ryan; Lori Emerson; Benjamin J. Robertson (20 March 2014). The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. JHU Press. pp. 271–. ISBN 978-1-4214-1223-8.
  11. ^ Christopher Thompson Funkhouser (24 June 2007). Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 978-0-8173-1562-7.
  12. ^ Eduardo Kac (2007). Media Poetry: An International Anthology. Intellect Books. pp. 276–. ISBN 978-1-84150-030-0.
  13. ^ "NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Reabracadabra". 27 October 2016.
  14. ^ "When Net Art Outlives the Net: Eduardo Kac's Poetry for Videotexto".
  15. ^ "Reabracadabra de Eduardo Kac, en la Net Art Anthology".
  16. ^ Annmarie Chandler (2005). At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. MIT Press. pp. 290–. ISBN 978-0-262-03328-2.
  17. ^ Eduardo Ledesma (2 November 2016). Radical Poetry: Aesthetics, Politics, Technology, and the Ibero-American Avant-Gardes, 1900-2015. SUNY Press. pp. 270–. ISBN 978-1-4384-6202-8.
  18. ^ Net, Media Art (14 August 2018). "Media Art Net - Kac, Eduardo: Reabracadabra".
  19. ^ Cronologia das artes plásticas no Rio de Janeiro: da missão artística francesa à geração 90 : 1816, mil oitocentos e dezesseis a mil novecentos e noventa e quatro, 1994. Topbooks. 1995.
  20. ^ Zanini, Walter. "A arte de comunicação telemática: a interatividade no ciberespaço". ARS (São Paulo). 1 (1): 11–34. doi:10.1590/S1678-53202003000100003 – via SciELO.
  21. ^ "Evanescent Realities".
  22. ^ Gabriella Giannachi (2004). Virtual Theatres: An Introduction. Psychology Press. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-0-415-28379-3.
  23. ^ Michal Kobialka (1999). Of Borders and Thresholds: Theatre History, Practice, and Theory. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 282–. ISBN 978-0-8166-3090-5.
  24. ^ World Art: The Magazine of Contemporary Visual Arts. G+B Arts International. 1996.
  25. ^ Stephen Wilson (2002). Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. MIT Press. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-0-262-73158-4.
  26. ^ Maurizio Bolognini (2012). Machines: Conversations on Art & Technology. postmediabooks. pp. 89–. ISBN 978-88-7490-074-9.
  27. ^ Sean Morey (19 November 2015). Rhetorical Delivery and Digital Technologies: Networks, Affect, Electracy. Taylor & Francis. pp. 267–. ISBN 978-1-317-40708-9.
  28. ^ Association for Computing Machinery; SIGGRAPH. (1996). Visual proceedings: the art and interdisciplinary programs of SIGGRAPH 96. Association for Computing Machinery. ISBN 978-0-89791-784-1.
  29. ^ Flash Art. G. Politi. 1999.
  30. ^ Natasha Lushetich (13 April 2016). Interdisciplinary Performance: Reformatting Reality. Macmillan International Higher Education. pp. 242–. ISBN 978-1-137-33503-6.
  31. ^ David Banash (21 May 2015). Steve Tomasula: The Art and Science of New Media Fiction. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-1-62892-369-8.
  32. ^ Scott Weintraub (17 July 2018). Latin American Technopoetics: Scientific Explorations in New Media. Taylor & Francis. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-0-429-83939-9.
  33. ^ Will Jackson (1 March 2012). Crisis, Rupture and Anxiety: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Contemporary and Historical Human Challenges. Cambridge Scholars. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-4438-3616-6.
  34. ^ Artbyte. ArtByte, Incorporated. 2001.
  35. ^ "Bioart: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Using Living Tissue as a Medium".
  36. ^ "Art world today will meet 'Edunia,' Eduardo Kac's genetically engineered 'plantimal'".
  37. ^ "Eduardo Kac : Genesis 2".
  38. ^ Annick Bureaud (2000). Eduardo Kac: Telepresence, Biotelematics, Transgenic Art. Association for Culture and Education, KIBLA Multimedia Center. ISBN 978-961-6304-02-3.
  39. ^ a b "I Love My Glow Bunny".
  40. ^ Cat Hope; John Charles Ryan (19 June 2014). Digital Arts: An Introduction to New Media. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 171–. ISBN 978-1-78093-321-4.
  41. ^ "Artist's Glowing, Live Rabbit Creation Causes Fuss". ABC News. 7 January 2006.
  42. ^ COPELAND, LIBBY (23 October 2000). "It's Not Easy Being Green" – via LA Times.
  43. ^ "RIP: Alba, the Glowing Bunny".
  44. ^ "Mutant bunny".
  45. ^ Krzysztof Ziarek (2004). The Force of Art. Stanford University Press. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-0-8047-5011-0.
  46. ^ a b Anthony Dunne; Fiona Raby (6 December 2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-262-01984-2.
  47. ^ Gambino, Megan. "The Story of How An Artist Created a Genetic Hybrid of Himself and a Petunia".
  48. ^ Oliver Grau (29 July 2011). Imagery in the 21st Century. MIT Press. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-0-262-29742-4.
  49. ^ "Un grand pas pour l'art". 17 November 2016.
  50. ^ "A Space Odyssey: Making Art Up There".
  51. ^ "Art in Space Sparks Discussion on Technology, AI".
  52. ^ "IVAM - Institut Valencià d'Art Modern - Catalogue".
  53. ^ "Search the Collections - Victoria and Albert Museum".
  54. ^
  55. ^ "Creative Capital - Investing in Artists who Shape the Future".
  56. ^ Cyberarts. Springer. 2009.

External linksEdit