'Genetic Automata' by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy forms the first part of an ambitious new body of works by the artists, exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, video games, and DNA Ancestry testing.
Referencing the history of the theory of evolution, and the relationship between Darwin and his taxidermy teacher John Edmonstone, who was a freed slave, the artists' new commission for Arts Catalyst 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.
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 argument continues to rage. Achiampong and Blandy tackle this complicated history of classification and segregation through this new work.
Viewers are taken on an immersive journey marked by encounters with histories of racial science, computer-generated virtual landscapes and molecular speculations of genetic testing.