The uniqueness of this provocative live installation lies in the biotechnological creation of DNA images that are radically different from the abstracted banding patterns now familiar from media images. Ocular Revision turns this “genetic mapping” on its head, remediating it in the sense of both restoration and opposition. Vanouse proposes a return to the more holistic view of biology that was promoted within the sciences prior to the late twentieth century characterization of DNA as code. His technical strategy was to build an entirely novel circular (rather than rectangular) gel electrophoresis apparatus. It still uses electrical current to pull DNA through the gel; here, the DNA moves not across linearly, but from the perimeter toward the centre of the rig. The result is DNA visualization as a flow or flowering. Further, Vanouse makes maps from DNA, rather than of DNA. Segments from E.Coli DNA are selectively processed so that, in the gel, they coalesce into images resembling hemispheric pictures of the earth’s continents. Ocular Revision is exhibited in the form of twin circular projection screens that show time-lapse footage of the creation of these unorthodox maps. The abstraction and exploitation that are historically registered in world maps are challenged in this process, one that is revealed to the viewer as constructed rather “ truth.” When the artist performs the process live, the audience’s close experience of a serious amateur researcher gives them entry into otherwise obscure and mystified processes. The project is sharply, if subtly, critical because it inverts the goals of worldwide genomic mapping and its application to racial typing.
Paul Vanouse (United States)
VIDA 13.2 - Second prize