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German artist brings to life Van Gogh’s severed ear with relative’s DNA

By Arturo Garcia
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 17:19 EDT
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German museum displays living replica of Van Gogh's ear [ZKM.de]
 
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A German museum is currently displaying an organic three-dimensional copy of art icon Vincent van Gogh’s severed ear using material allegedly drawn from a distant relative.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that artist Diemut Strebe grew the ear after drawing living cells from van Gogh’s great-great grandnephew, Lieuwe van Gogh.

The exhibit is scheduled to run at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe through July 6, and featured an appearance by political philosopher Noam Chomsky during opening night on May 30. Strebe is reportedly planning to display her “living art” in New York City next year.

The ear, which was grown at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is technically alive — and can reportedly be kept alive for years since its container includes liquid nutrients. The Center for Art and Media said in a statement on its website that, “You can speak to the ear. The incoming sound is processed by a computer. A program to convert it to simulate nerve impulses in real time.”

“I use science basically like a type of brush,” Strebe was quoted as saying. “Like Vincent used paint.”

The two van Goghs share 1/16th of the same genetic material, including DNA from the Y-chromosome handed down through the male lineage. Strebe is also working with a female relative of van Gogh’s to create another display using mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down maternal bloodlines.

Popular opinion holds that van Gogh cut off his left ear lobe out of anger in December 1888 following an argument with friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin. But ABC News reported in 2009 that, according to German historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, the argument actually led to Gauguin accidentally cutting the ear off with a sword, causing the two artists to enter a “pact of silence” about the incident.

[Image via Center for Art and Media official site.]

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
 
 
 
 
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