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DNA And 3d Printing Used to Recreate Van Gogh's Famous Missing Ear [PHOTO]

By Staff Writer | June 12, 2014 12:20 PM EDT

Science and Art have found themselves at a strange crossroads this past week when a DNA copied, 3d printed, living recreation of the famous ear Van Gogh cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888 was put on display at Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Germany. 

You may ask why, to which Italian artist Diemut Strebe would reply "I thought it would be interesting to regrow van Gogh's ear." (wired)

The project took three years and a team from Harvard and MIT. Early attempts to use the actual DNA from Van Gogh were unsuccessful. So the painter's brother's great great grandson, Theo Van Gogh, donated a piece of skin from the back of his ear with the help of a plastic surgeon. 

The final process involved combining the donated DNA, with DNA from a letter thought to have been licked by Van Gogh, attached to some synthetic DNA, and put it all in an ear shaped mold. They then used 3d imaging, computer modeling, and 3d printing methods, cross referenced with pictures of the actual ear, to ensure the disembodied ear was as close to accurate as possible. Seeing as no two ears are identical, and Van Gogh has been dead over a century, this was a truly herculean task. 

The strangeness doesn't stop there, the ear on display at the ZKM is attached to a microphone, and patrons are encouraged to whisper something into the disembodied ear. 

The title of the piece "Sugababe" references an ancient philosophical problem as expressed by a British pop band by that name. Essentially asking if you replace all the members of a band, one by one, is it still the same band? 

The ear will be on display until July, after which Strebe will move her collection, including the ear, to New York. 

Tagged :  artists, VanGogh, ear, 3d printing, DNA, Diemut Strebe

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