A UC Davis generated company named Calegene (bought by Monsanto) birthed the Flavr Savr, also known as CGN-89564-2, on May 21st, 1994 by adding two genes (one from an e-coli bacterium) into the species Lycopericon esculentum, the common tomato plant, in order to lengthen its shelf life. As it happened that I was living in Davis as the first genetically modified organism was being developed, I concurrently created an art installation in response.
Prompted by the genetic engineering of the tomato, this installation plays with the darker side of human creativity and invention as it looks at the interplay between creation, control and power. A cross between a scientist’s lab and an artist's studio, the work attempts to close the gap between art and science whilst drawing attention to their differing roles.
The installation is comprised of various experiments or works in progress. On the shelves are small oil paintings of mutant tomatoes with “unacceptable” defects. On another shelf there is a futuristic model for a "tomato six-pack": square tomatoes (tomato skins and glue) that fit perfectly into a rectangular box, without any of the wasted space of a round fruit. Hanging from the ceiling is a wire sculpture in the form of a figure. This structure was painstakingly covered with tomato skins that were salvaged from a commercial cannery. The skins were washed, dried and then sewn together with ruby red thread. Inspirations include the artistry of fashion in creating image, "you are what you eat", and the sinister "Frankenstein" overtones of gene selection.