Genetic Automata by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy

Triscott, N., Achiampong, A. and Blandy, B. 2019. Genetic Automata by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy. Arts Catalyst, London

CreatorsTriscott, N., Achiampong, A. and Blandy, B.
Collaborators
CuratorSantomauro, A.
Description

Genetic Automata by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, curated by Nicola Triscott and commissioned by Arts Catalyst, was a film and installation exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, video games, and DNA Ancestry testing. 
Triscott was responsible for initiating the project and proposing the subject area to the artists, as well as for arranging conversations between the artists and evolutionary geneticist Professor Mark Thomas and undertaking other research activities with the artists. She worked closely with the artists on the exhibition’s conceptualisation, both in terms of content and form.

Concepts of race and ethnicity in science over the last century have been split between two main perspectives. One, rooted in the eugenics movement, treats racial and ethnic categories as biological classifications. The other, stemming from social science, regards race and ethnicity primarily as cultural and historical constructs with very little biological significance. Even after the human genome was decoded in 2003, which scientists believe proved there was no biological basis for race, the arguments continue to rage. This installation forms the first of a proposed body of works by the artists that attempt to address this complex history of classification and segregation.

Referencing the history of the theory of evolution, and the relationship between Darwin and his taxidermy teacher John Edmonstone, a freed slave, Achiampong and Blandy’s exhibition takes the form of a video installation combining animation, spoken word and text interspersed with microscopic topographies of varied shades of skin, digital renditions of skin from video games, and film footage of taxidermied bird life from Darwin’s bird skin collection at the Natural History Museum. Viewers are taken on an immersive journey marked by encounters with histories of racial science, computer-generated virtual landscapes and the molecular speculations of genetic testing. The work investigates how invisible histories – such as the transfer of knowledge from Edmonstone to Darwin – have helped to inform mainstream western scientific thinking while remaining unrecognised. It is now believed that Edmonstone was pivotal in advancing Darwin’s theory of evolution, inspiring Darwin to visit South America and teaching him taxidermy skills that enabled the preservation of specimens of finches Darwin discovered on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands, which helped him to develop his theory of natural selection. Through Genetic Automata, the artists question how these narratives shape our perception of the history of scientific thought and who determines such history.
 
Weaving together imagery and narratives from various popular cultural interpretations of genetic manipulation, from Metal Gear Solid to Resident Evil to Final Fantasy and the Metroid series, the artists explore the legacy and language of concepts around eugenics and human agency.
 
The work was curated by Nicola Triscott, commissioned by Arts Catalyst and supported by Arts Council England.

Date24 Jan 2019
Keywordscontemporary art, film, race, avatars, video games, genetics, scientific racism
Web address (URL)https://www.artscatalyst.org/genetic-automata

Related outputs

The Live Creature and Ethereal Things: Physics in Culture
Triscott, N., Crisp, F., Sebastian, S., Shears, T., Malina, R., Nahum, Neyrinck, M., Saraceno, T., Cipcigan, F., Kukula, M., Lawson, H., Coy, P., Bello, M. and Thomson. J. Triscott, N. and Crisp, F. (ed.) 2018. The Live Creature and Ethereal Things: Physics in Culture. London Arts Catalyst (Publisher).

The Live Creature and Ethereal Things
Triscott, N. 2018. The Live Creature and Ethereal Things. in: Triscott, N. and Crisp, F. (ed.) The Live Creature and Ethereal Things London Arts Catalyst (Publisher). pp. 12-24

Dreamed Native Ancestry (DNA) by Mission//Misplaced Memory
Triscott, N., Bunsie, Z., Steward, G., Mathison, T. and Gould, G. 2017. Dreamed Native Ancestry (DNA) by Mission//Misplaced Memory. London

Real Lives Half Lives: Fukushima
Triscott, N., Waite, J. and Lastra, C. 2017. Real Lives Half Lives: Fukushima. Arts Catalyst, 74-76 Cromer Street, London WC1H 8DR

Conflict Minerals: Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway, Nabil Ahmed
Triscott, N., Autogena, L., Portway, J. and Ahmed, N. 2017. Conflict Minerals: Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway, Nabil Ahmed. Arts Catalyst, 74-76 Cromer Street, London WC1H 8DR

Holoturian, Ariel Guzik
Triscott, N. and Simmonds, M.P. Triscott, N. (ed.) 2017. Holoturian, Ariel Guzik. London

Curating contemporary art in the framework of the planetary commons
Triscott, N. 2017. Curating contemporary art in the framework of the planetary commons. The Polar Journal. 7 (2), pp. 374-390. doi:10.1080/2154896X.2017.1373916

Critical Art and Outer Space: a curatorial inquiry into space as a global commons
Triscott, N. 2016. Critical Art and Outer Space: a curatorial inquiry into space as a global commons. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. San Francisco 29 Mar - 02 Apr 2016

Graveyard of Lost Species - Critical Art Ensemble / YoHa
Triscott, N., Harwood, G., Kurtz, S. and Lastra, C. 2016. Graveyard of Lost Species - Critical Art Ensemble / YoHa. Site specific, Leigh-on-Sea marshes, Southend, Essex. Ordinance survey grid ref: TQ 82738 85478

Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science
Triscott, N. and Steadman, A. 2016. Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science. Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science & Technology 74-76 Cromer Street London WC1H 8DR

Transmissions from the Noosphere: Contemporary art and outer space
Triscott, N. 2016. Transmissions from the Noosphere: Contemporary art and outer space. in: The Palgrave Handbook of Society, Culture & Outer Space Palgrave Macmillan.

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen: assemble | standard | minimal
Triscott, N., Hauser, J., Cohen, R. and Van Balen, T. 2015. Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen: assemble | standard | minimal. Schering Stiftung, Unter den Linden 32-34, 10117 Berlin, Germay

Holoturian - Ariel Guzik
Triscott, N. 2015. Holoturian - Ariel Guzik. Edinburgh Art Festival

SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe - Modern Ruins 1:220
Triscott, N., La Frenais, R., Padilla Domene, A. and Puig Domene, I. 2014. SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe - Modern Ruins 1:220. Furtherfield Pavilion, Finsbury Park, London N4 2NQ

Self-Experimentation & the Nervous Culture: Neal White’s Ethics Committee of 1
Triscott, N. 2014. Self-Experimentation & the Nervous Culture: Neal White’s Ethics Committee of 1. in: Trust Me, I’m an Artist: Towards an Ethics of Art and Science Collaboration Waag Society.

Republic of the Moon
Triscott, N. and La Frenais, R. 2014. Republic of the Moon. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London SE1 9PH

Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/qqx6q/genetic-automata-by-larry-achiampong-and-david-blandy


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