"Latent Figure Protocol" Paul Vanouse

"The Relative Velocity Inscription Device" Paul Vanouse

Paul Vanouse

Installation, 2007 – 2009

Latent Figure Protocol is a media installation that uses DNA samples to create emergent representational images. The installation includes a live science experiment, the result of which is videotaped and repeated for the duration of the gallery exhibit. Employing a reactive gel and electrical current, Latent Figure Protocol produces images that relate directly to the DNA samples employed. The LFP imaging process relies upon knowing what size DNA is required for each band to move at the proper speed to make the correct image. This is essentially doing molecular biology IN REVERSE. Usually scientists use imaging techniques to determine an organism’s genetic sequence, whereas Vanouse utilizes known sequences in online databases to produce “planned” images. Latent Figure Protocol seeks to undermine essentialist notions of identity and determinist senses of biological destiny, and to destabilize idea that the “DNA fingerprint” is somehow natural.


Installation, 2002

The Relative Velocity Inscription Device is a live scientific experiment using the DNA of the artist's own multi-racial family of Jamaican descent. The experiment takes the form of an installation containing a computer-regulated DNA separation gel through which four family members' DNA slowly travels. DNA from their skin color genes are literally “raced” against one another, implying a valuation of its speed such as “genetic fitness”. An early eugenic publication within the installation allows viewers access a historical precursor of this "race," while a touch-screen display details the results of this particular experiment. RVID operates in the tense space between critical and utopian appraisals of contemporary genomics and the politics of race. It transfers the discussion of difference from the physical bodies of its subjects to their DNA, and ironically re-anthropomorphizes their DNA by inscribing value to its movements as if each sample were running a foot race against other family members' DNA samples. RVID is a race, about "race" in which the body has been erased.



Paul Vanouse has been working in emerging technological forms since 1990. Interdisciplinarity and impassioned amateurism guide his art practice. His electronic cinema, biological experiments, and interactive installations have been exhibited in 20 countries and widely across the US. Vanouse’s work has been supported by Creative Capital Foundation, Renew Media Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and National Science Foundation. He is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo where he co-directs the Emerging Media MFA.