GENETIC AUTOMATA, 2019
FILM-BASED WORKS EXPLORING RACE AND IDENTITY IN AN AGE OF AVATARS, VIDEO GAMES AND DNA ANCESTRY TESTING
BY LARRY ACHIAMPONG AND DAVID BLANDY
Project + Exhibition: "Genetic Automata"
Artwork: "A Terrible Fiction"
Artists: Larry Achiampong, David Blandy
Presented in a curated programme by Lighthouse.
Part of: Radical Ancestry, Arts Catalyst
ABOUT THE WORK
A series of film-based works exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, video games and DNA ancestry testing. The series is presented by Lighthouse in a one-day event with a video installation, screenings and artists' talk. The exhibition 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.
A Terrible Fiction (video installation) – references the history of the theory of evolution, and the relationship between Darwin and his taxidermy teacher John Edmonstone, a freed slave. The work combines 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 bird life from Darwin’s bird skin collection at the Natural History Museum. The artists question how these narratives shape our perception of the history of scientific thought and who determines such history. They ask, whose voices are erased from mainstream narratives?
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
In Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s collaborative practice, they share an interest in popular culture and the decolonial position. They examine communal and personal heritage, using performance to investigate the self as a fiction, devising alter-egos to point at their divided selves.
Larry Achiampong is a British-Ghanaian artist who has exhibited, performed and presented projects in various institutions within the UK and worldwide including The Diaspora Pavilion, Venice Biennale; Tate Britain/Modern, and ICA, London; and the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation, Accra, Ghana. Achiampong has been working with audio for the past ten years combining original scores, sampled audio and field recordings.
David Blandy has exhibited at venues nationally and worldwide such as Tate Modern, London; Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany; MoMA PS1, New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China. Blandy was Lighthouse’s Artist-in-Residence for Brighton Science Festival in 2013.
ABOUT THE COMMISSION
Genetic Automata forms part of Arts Catalyst’s long-term curatorial programme Radical Ancestry, a cultural collective inquiry exploring how artists can transform new knowledge from genetic science into a re-thinking of race, identity and migration. This touring show is supported by Arts Council and Elephant Trust.