October 7, 2016 to February 12, 2017

A ‘poetry machine’ playing the 3.2 billion bases of the human genome like a musical score.

Thomson & Craighead call Stutterer a ‘poetry machine’, which plays the 3.2 billion bases of the human genome like a musical score. The four DNA bases are represented by the letters A, C,G and T. In Stutterer the human genome is played, in order, from beginning to end. As a letter from the sequence appears on screen the artwork plucks a clip from a huge library of English language media, selected by the artists, that was broadcast during the thirteen years of the Human Genome Project. The only condition is that the speech in the clip begins with the same letter as the DNA. Our genetic code has many repetitions, strings of the same letter. When the machine encounters a repetition the same media clip is played over and over, seemingly stuttering. Giving the artwork its name. Stutterer highlights the huge scale of biological information contained in each of our cells – if the work played continuously it would run for at least sixty years. But it also highlights the rich period of history that was the backdrop to this monumental scientific project; beginning with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990 and ending with the Iraq War in 2003. Stutterer is a human monument of sorts, which seeks to connect our biological fabric with our unique linguistic abilities – the very abilities, which have arguably enabled us to apprehend our own DNA in the first place. 


About the artists

Jon Thomson (b. 1969) and Alison Craighead (b. 1971) are artists living and working in London and the Highlands of Scotland. They make artworks and installations for galleries, online and outdoor public spaces. Much of their work looks at live networks like the web and how they are changing the way we all understand the world around us. They are graduates of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. Jon lectures part time at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London; Alison is a senior researcher at University of Westminster and lectures in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University.

LifeSpace Gallery

Stutterer was commissioned for LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery with the collaboration of The Barton Group and supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award.