On the 25th of November 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a video to YouTube disclosing that he had successfully created the first humans with artificially altered genes. Lulu and Nana had reportedly successfully undergone an experimental gene modification treatment at the single cell stage and been born as healthy twins. CCR5, a protein responsible for susceptibility to HIV (among other things) had been modified in a manmade process used regularly in plants and other species called CRISPR/Cas9. At the end of his upbeat video, two Gmail addresses are shown on the screen where you can contact either He himself, or Lulu and Nana (the three month old twins). The scientific community at large is in shock, He is sequestered in an apartment and under
investigation and surveillance by the Chinese government, and scientists in the US are facing scrutiny over their awareness of the unethical and illegal activities.
The scope of this work is to investigate how we can understand the ramifications of a paradigm shifting progressive action. The information that we have is provided by He himself, and in the format of a fairly casual YouTube video. Beyond this, Chinese officials are stifling information about the project, while in the US high ranking members of academia are silent about their involvement. Thus the depiction of Lulu and Nana (whose real names are unknown) tends towards the information we do have. Objectifying the parts of them that have been altered mirrors the reaction of the scientific community at large, though there is a stoic concern for the twins well being in the mix as well.
This work asks the pertinent question of liberal commodification of genetic materials and what this territory might look like. With the assistance of emerging technologies as a medium, I aim to expose this developing conversation to a wider audience, as the consequences are wide reaching and will impact the human species directly and in a totally revolutionary sense.
ABS plastic, aluminium, acrylic, enamel and resin
(with Lea Charron, Laela Chung, Charlie Clegg and Sandev Handy)
(with Ian Cheeseman, Garry Currin, Vicki Fanning, Brent Harris, Rebecca Harris, Rupert Herring, Nicholas Ives, Monique Lacey, Peter Panyoczki, Patricia Piccinini, Toby Raine, and Liz Sharek)
"This unique group show asks artists to consider the use of landscape as a metaphor for the unknown; the erratic, sometimes frightening – but ultimately hopeful – times we live in. The works are bold, dark, mischievous and sometimes humorous, but they are all excellent examples of the calibre of art being produced in Aotearoa and Australia today.
It’s a slightly darker show than usual, to reflect the slightly darker times we live in. Yet this is a show of great humour and human insight, designed for you to embrace, engage and debate."
- Scott Lawrie