Big pigs, small wings : on genohype and artistic autonomy

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On Thursday the 23rd of November 2004 the headline on the front page of The West Australian stated: 'Gene tests to pick junior sports stars' (O'Leary, 2004: 1). The body of the text begins with the following prediction: 'Parents wanting to know if their child has what it takes to be a sports star will soon be able to buy a genetic test for about $100 from local sporting clubs and gyms'. Well, we thought, finally a tangible outcome for the Human Genome Project (HGP). Is this is the great promise that was delivered so ceremoniously four and a half years ago? Exactly four years prior to the publication of the above story in The West Australian we received a letter from the Wellcome Trust's Two10 Gallery inviting us to submit a proposal for a commissioned work to an exhibition titled 'Working Drafts: Envisioning the Human Genome'.This paper will explore the notion of Genohype, a term coined by Neil Holtzman to describe the discourse of exaggerated claims and overstatements concerning DNA and the Human Genome Project (1999: 409-10). Genohype depicts the hype generated by scientists, the media, the public and the arts with regard to genetic research. In the context of this paper, Genohype is used in relation to the hyperbolic discourse that has been attained by genetic research and its applied outcomes, whether positive or negative. One of the effects of Genohype, as will be illustrated here, is that genetics has become synonymous with all life sciences. In this paper, Genohype will be examined in relation to the somewhat conflicting views with regard to the role of artists dealing with the application of newly acquired knowledge, using our very own Pig Wings Project as the case study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)online - approx 5-20pp
JournalCulture Machine
Issue number2005
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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