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Grinder p53 (2000) is a life-printing machine. It is a monument made to reprint life. Hammered into granite the sculpture portrays the entire genetic sequence of the human suicide gene p53. The gene is exposed in a completely reproducible way. With a genetical synthesizer the sequence can be read and encoded back into flesh.

As a work Grinder p53 appears contradictory. As a phallic stone it resembles a traditional monument. But it is an information carrier that could not be made before now, in the year 2000. The data imprinted in the stone is made feasible by the human race’ most advanced achievement: the mapping of the human gene. Its expression combines age-old craftsmanship with the most advanced knowledge (genetic engineering). The sculpture so comments both the traditional and the avant-garde.

Grinder p53 is a manifestation of how media have changed pre-digital art. Where traditional sculpture before made superficial depictions of the outer human silhouette, Grinder p53 is an inner description of life. Rather than presenting superficial appearances, Grinder p53 makes it possible to completely produce -and re-produce- this specific piece of life. The genre of portrays is forever changed. The content goes beyond romantic nostalgia and comments on the new millenium of the Life-Sciences. At the same time the monument presents a sublime critique of New-Technologies. By presenting The New (genetic engineering) by The Old (stone carving), the work paradoxically use traditional techniques to transform our understanding of new technologies. Implicitly it also questions the ethics behind the rush for progress. How to explain life without (human) history? Ironically, imprinted in stone the naturally occurring human gene p53 will most likely survive the artificially modified p53-xxx of the next millennium.

Gene p53 is commonly called the suicide gene. Why? Because it triggers the death of its host-cell. However, it only does so if the cell has been damaged beyond self-repair. If such badly damaged cells don’t die, they become life-threatening. They will not stop growing, and in turn evolve into cancer-cells. The apparent suicide of the cell triggered by p53 is actually a life-saving functionality. Gene p53 is therefore often called “Guardian of the Genome”. This recently discovered functionality influence the understanding of life. A new field of research–apoptosis- has been founded upon this discovery.

As we today print words on paper, soon we will print life. The next step after decoding the human genome is re-configuring the genetic sequences. The human body is turned into Lego. The body has turned into a material that can be modelled and crafted – from within. New communication technologies have accustomed us to play with appearance and looks. Avatars on the Net are designed identities that we can swap as fast as we can press . So, the Internet is a playground for recursive identities, but also for the non-recursive, genetically modified body of the new Millennium. Just imagine how much fun we’ll have with Genoshop, the future equivalent to Photoshop.

Appearance & Material: The monument is a 7-½ meter tall and 30-ton heavy stone grinder made of special Finnish blue granite.

Realization & Placement: The piece was made for the Eco-museum Borderland in Halden, Norway. Halden is an historical bordertown between Norway and Sweden. The sculpture is located at the old monument carving production facility Fagerholt, situated by the Idd-fjord in Halden.

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