The Critter Issue

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Redefining what it means to be human through CRISPR technology


CRISPR-Cas9: a gene editing technique that allows geneticists and medical researchers to edit part of a human or animal genome by modifying, removing, or adding in sections of a DNA sequence. The technology, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats was first described by Japanese researchers in 1987.

Now, over three decades into the future, CRISPR has evolved into a relatively cheap, precise, reliable, and versatile technology for inter-species adaptation. Researchers say the technology may soon help us prevent a wide array of genetic diseases that have long vexed human society. But what of the dark side to inter-species adaptation?

In her latest diptych, artist Loney Abrams ponders CRISPR’s more ominous future. Could techniques like CRISPR one day fundamentally redefine what it means to be human? Are we headed toward a future where gene-editing can be used to create a race of superhumans, enriched by the useful traits of non-human lifeforms?

In an era defined by climate change and a near future that threatens tens of millions of climate refugees over the next decade, which critter qualities will we truly covet?

Left: Outsmart climate change with genetically synthesized heat resistance. Saharanant™ keeps you cool using the DNA derived from the Saharan Silver Ant. Live as close to the equator as you’d like — talk to your doctor about Saharanant™.

Loney Abrams and Johnny Stanish, Saharant™ (2017) and Elephantax™ (2017). UV print on handmade paper (Left: pulped Wall Street Journal, copper foil, sunscreen, incense wrapper, price tag, RAW rolling paper, magnesium chloride bath salts, dandelion root, chrysanthemum buds. Right: pulped New York Times, copper foil, Dr. Bronner's soap label, Every Day Detox Tea, RAW rolling papers, anti-aging serum, milk thistle root, rose petals, magnesium chloride bath salts, Electrolyte Plus+ powder, bee pollen). Images courtesy of the artists and Pretty Days/Bas Fisher Invitational.

Right: Extend your child-bearing years into retirement with Elephantax™, clinically proven to delay menopause using CRISPR technology and DNA natural found in elephants. Restart your biological clock and keep it ticking into the golden years. Talk to your doctor today about Elephantax™.