Metamorphosis of the Human Animal: HOX ZODIAC

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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 the snail to the elephant to humans – and it can now be manipulated into transforming certain parts of the body into others. We have observed such transformations, such as that of an amputated antenna into a limb, as far back as 1901, termed neomorphosisi, and it has only recently re-emerged as an area of scientific study. Spontaneous transformations and induced regenerations are fascinating research topics that are fast becoming a reality; some scientists are postulating that it may be possible that the hox gene could be central to limb regeneration in the futureii.

This paper will present the Hox Zodiac project, which attempts to introduce this subject and push the ideas further into speculation of mutation (i.e. humans and animals) into creatures that may resemble the mythical beings we know as fiction. The starting point of this wheel of life is the Chinese zodiac, consisting of twelve animals that are associated with humans. In the process of development, it became interesting to note that half of the animals on the wheel are those used in the lab – rat, pig, monkey, dog, sheep and rabbit. The ox, tiger, horse, snake, and rooster are considered mythical and the dragon could easily fall into the category of a genetically modified creature that is to re-emerge in the future. Since medical and scientific testing on humans is strictly forbidden, scientists have virtually shifted to animals for all such studies. Thus, everything that is used on our bodies and minds is directly related to the animal kingdom. The pig heart and rat mind are symbols for the paradox of science that uses animals in ways that is at once disconnected while subconsciously connecting us more than ever by using research results in medical and food products we consume.

Although the controversy of using animals in labs is widely known and often violently opposed, the artist in the lab questions how this research impacts our collective consciousness, especially with the growing trend of brain-computer interfaces and particularly synthetic telepathy. This relationship of the human to the metaphorical meaning of the animal kingdom brought to mind Jung’s research on metaphors, symbolism and archetypes, which became central to the Hox Zodiac. This paper focuses on the first animal in the Hox Zodiac, the (transgenic) rat.