Most people wishing to bring back the spirit of Elvis visit his shrine in Graceland or cozy up to a velvet-clad impersonator in Vegas. Artist Koby Barhad is planning to take a different approach, using Elvis' DNA to genetically engineer two mouse-Elvis hybrids. Talk about taking care of business.
Barhad, a graduate student at the Royal College of Art in London, is crafting his unconventional art project-meets-mad science experiment to explore the ethical issues of cloning. On his website, he writes that he began the project by buying Elvis' hair on e-Bay for the bargain price of $22. He then is plotting to ship the hair sample to gene sequencing lab to identify behavioral traits in areas including sociability, athletic performance, obesity and addiction.
Barhad will use a genetic laboratory to produce a mouse with Elvis' genetic makeup, though sadly, not his signature pompadour. At this point, the process got even more strange. After conducting research on the history of mice experimentation, Barhad is to compose a series of cages for the mice that would simulate Elvis' life experiences. For example, Elvis-mouse is given a mouse companion to represent his relationship with his mother, and a funhouse mirror to represent the inflated ego Presley received from his fame. The final phase of the maze takes a particularly dark turn, when Elvis-mouse is placed on an uphill treadmill until he eventually fell off, symbolizing death.
Barhad has not yet embarked on this odd scientific exploration, he has only suggested that such a thing would be possible, and easier to achieve than you would expect.
"I've always been fascinated with humanity's eternal need to quantify and define life. Be it biology or physics, philosophy or biography, psychology or fiction -- from Frankenstein to the "god particle." In my research I came across a private lab service that offers "mice" that are "genetically modified for your needs." From that point I was just wondering whose behavioural mice model I would like to design. That, of course, led me to e-Bay, the DNA sequencing labs and to historical and contemporary behaviouristic science."
In the interview Barhad brings up the many questions raised but not answered by his piece. When does a person become mythologized to the point where they are more of a symbol than a human? Can someone "own" another's DNA if they purchase it? We're curious to know your thoughts.
Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy Elvis-mouse photos below.
Correction: An earlier edition of this article stated that Barhad had in fact cloned the Elvis mice, when in fact he had only outlined a possible method of cloning them.