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A German artist has taken some of Vincent Van Gogh’s genetic material and used it to regrow the ear he famously cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888. The ear, which sits floating in a biological solution meant to preserve the fragile tissue, is currently on display at a museum in Karlsruhe, Germany. “The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe says the replica ear consists of living cells grown from samples provided by Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. The museum says Lieuwe and Vincent van Gogh share about 1/16th of the same genes, including the Y-chromosome that is passed down the male lineage.”
What’s the Big Idea?
A biological 3D printer was used to create the organ which is expected to last for several years before the tissue dissolves away. Diemut Strebe, the artist, said her objective was to combine the expressive capabilities of art with the ingenuity of science. “I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” she said. Work is currently underway to source genetic material–mitochondrial DNA–passed down through Vincent’s maternal line for use in future installations. Strebe is planning to display the ear in New York next year.