ARTIST Jacob Waites


Laser Cutting



Shoji Gami Rice Paper



Gene Therapy concerns the human p53 gene. A tumor suppressing oncogene, the p53 gene is crucial in the regulation of the human cell cycle, and a leading defense in the prevention of Cancer. The boxes house the individual base nucleotides for the gene to properly function, and allows the user to simulate genetic mutation through the rearrangement of their order. This rearrangement occurs in life as the result of exposure to radiation, UV rays, and other chemical stimulus that disrupts the p53 genes status, and can lead to its loss of function, and as a result, uncontrolled production of cells which lead to tumor formation and cancer. 50% of all cancerous tumors contain p53 mutations, and as little as one single "missense" mutation (the kind simulated by the moving of these blocks) can lead to this outcome.


The inheritance of our genes from our families, and their passing on to posterity is the natural cycle of life, and the fragility of their composition can tear apart the families that contain them. The laser-etched family portraits on the bottoms of the boxes represent the inheritance of these genes from family members, and are broken when rearranged. The boxes themselves are also faintly etched with numbers, indicating a pattern by which a viewer could reassemble the boxes to complete and fix the gene. This act is a powerful symbol, because it is currently impossible to do this using modern science, yet seems like such a simple concept in this piece.


I found out that since the laser is literally melting away and vaporizing the acrylic, it actually has a slightly larger thickness than I anticipated. I had to cut several test boxes before I could get everything to fit flush.


The patterns that appear cut out of the paper inside the boxes were generated with a processing script that I wrote that formatted each one to be lasercut. The code rotated, enlarged, and translated blob shapes according to the crests and valleys of my late uncle's biorhythms over the last months of his life with cancer. The the base nucleotide could be placed onto the center of the patterns with a key press, and clicking the mouse exported a final pdf of the pattern. The program can be seen live here. (Best viewed in Safari or FireFox, as it's a java-based application [Trust me, I wish it worked in Chrome too.])