Genomic Heroics

The project was a brief on the Decomputation elective, Royal College of Art, October 2014.

In collaboration with Jelka Kretzschmar and Wasabii Mokojolito. Also thanks to Imperial Biology for letting us visit their laboratories for synthetic biology.

Design a De-Computation genome.”

We decided to find allegorical and functional parallels in the world of DNA for our work. Through our interactions at the laboratories at Imperial we became fascinated by the pathways for creation, recursion and copying of DNA. The process of protein production became the basis for our work. We adapted this process to work for humans as a process of creation.

As the process  actually became our response the project was a reflexive cycle of discovery and production. Initially, trying to discover the ‘DNA of a poem’ we got people to respond to a piece of poetry by modelling using plasticine. The plasticine we gave them was shaped into 4 sets of different shapes (representing the base pairs of DNA). They had one minute to do this.

We took their models and photographed them from multiple angles. I took these photographs using the magic wand tool to select an imprint from each image. These images looked like small cultures of bacteria. We grouped these ‘cultures’ together to make create clipping masks to be used over the original poem.

At the crit we presented the artefacts that documented the process. From the poem we used to seed the process, through to the models and the bacteria cultures we ‘grew’ in their petri dishes. Our initial approach to the project was not a conception of an enacted process, but through our process it became more and more clear how we had been working with the problem of designing a genome. We found that in the complexity and dark space of knowledge around genetics, we were pushed to conceptualise small segments of processes through metaphor or simile.

In the crit what we didn’t quite fully achieve was the consistent representation of all of our process. We had a section missing that prevented the audience from being to follow through from the exciting objects to conclusion and then to the possibility of recursion of process to push further and further out.


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