A poetry machine that plays the human genome like a musical score

Stutterer is an instructional artwork, a poetry machine that plays the human genome like a musical score. Artists Thomson & Craighead were commissioned by the LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery at the University of Dundee to create a work that considered the scales of life. The artists were fascinated by the scale of information held with our genome and devised a work that plays each of the 3.3 billion letters in the human genome in turn, simultaneously plucking a clip from media broadcast during the thirteen years it took to sequence the first human genome. The work highlights the scale of information contained in each of our cells – if the work played continuously it would run for sixty years  – but also the rich period of history that was the backdrop to this monumental project.

It was important to us to bring Thomson & Craighead’s intriguing work to the Wellcome Genome Campus as part of our exhibition programme. Stutterer reminds us that scientific endeavour does not happen in isolation. The Wellcome Genome Campus is a place of cutting-edge research but it is also a site of great scientific heritage. By exhibiting Stutterer it was as if the artwork returned home.