process: 'Common Ground' event (ii) - gen-e bot


Studio space snapshot - the green plastic cell

After varied twists and turns over May and part of June, the Commons event finally arrived and though I thought at various points if Id ever come up with a piece at all, rest assured I managed to get something together - HOORAH! A bit of intense making especially in the last 2 weeks run up to the event. 

However looking back at my original statement submission, things did not go according to plan or rather maybe that was the plan - not to follow it! And something I need to remind myself - have a general plan but do not fear that which you have yet to tread as well as allowing ones work to be led rather than 'leading' it at all times. Basically release the OCD.  

First up for 'process of refining' was the scope of what I wanted to present. Im not entirely sure what was going through my mind when I wrote 'I am looking to work with geneticists...to explore the idea of shared commonality between humans and plants.'  I obviously had no idea what genetics entailed. After a bit of nosing around and subsequently being dragged deeper and deeper into the vortex of DNA, I drowned and then realised that looking at genes across humans and plants is possibly a wee too tad wide, considering humans have between 20,000-25,000 protein coding genes. 

Courtesy of Courtesy of Council for responsible genetics



Courtesy of Council for responsible genetics


But its not only the number, it was also the  way I was considering 'what' a gene was coming from a non-scientific background. To me, a gene was some sort of fixed object, just super small. In one way it is, but with these nano scale objects, and being a visually led person you overlook the complexities in attempting to have a simple visualisation. In my rather simple picture, I thought yes we have some genes (possibly round!) and out of those we might share some with non human things such as plants. I can then get some data/visuals of these shared round-y genes and there bobs your uncle. Ah, if only. 

It was then I had to undergo a dummies guide to super basic genetics - a great guide can be found here which I discovered (including basic guides to Cell biology and Neuroscience). And then my ideas started to unravel which I then re-ravelled and decided to solely focus on algae, rather than the plant kingdom as a whole. But even then, the algae kingdom is another mamooth affair - an estimated 72,500 different algal species exist. So where on earth do you start with the genetics?!?! I then started to get a bit overwhelmed. 

Perhaps it is this thinking (which I am clearly demonstrating) which Im trying to tease out and overturn or perhaps override(?) through my work. The thinking of how we divide and taxonomise the world around us but not really understanding how many more layers there are and the further delineations we have to consider. 

Ironically the taxonomies themselves are created by us human folk. Of course, a level of simplicity is required in order to frame areas within spheres such as science and in order to begin to understand the area and to communicate ideas and knowledge, but therein lies another problem - the simplicity and the superficial often begins to be seen as complete in itself and taken for granted. 

Research is a funny ole game, especially with endless amounts of information at your uniquely coded fingertips. Lots of wading and facing a new discipline with virtually no knowledge of that area, you are almost having to map it out in a short time what the area is about so you can then begin try locate what it is you are after, in this case some knowledge/ideas of the shared genetic space between humans and algae. 

Though I have worked with scientific material before, I had underestimated the time needed for the wading and constant refining, particularly as in this case I didn't have the 'call a friend' option - aka the expert scientist whose research is entirely based on what I was looking for!



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