Magazine article Art Monthly

Sarah Jacobs: After Nature: Highlights Marie Lund: Drums

Magazine article Art Monthly

Sarah Jacobs: After Nature: Highlights Marie Lund: Drums

Article excerpt

Best known for her free ebook Deciphering Human Chromosome 16: We Report Here that supported links to around 250 websites in the period after the publication in the journal Nature on 23 December 2004 of the article 'The sequence and analysis of duplication-rich human chromosome 16', Sarah Jacobs's After Nature: Highlights, 2014, returns to Nature, as a data bank, subjecting it to wholesale recoding, a labour-intensive bibliographic rendition that typifies her practice (in 2011 Jacobs published her reworking of the notebooks of a German psychiatric patient, Elisabeth Faulhaber, whose voluminous graphomanic writings are kept in the Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg).

From the get-go, Jacobs's new print-on-demand textbook deceives and tempts: left on the front cover, its printer's mark to guide cropping is inaccurate, the hand-drawn title-page lettering has started to decay and the contents page from Nature is reproduced back-to-front, though a quick glance at the ensuing verbiage, ie 'Highlights'--which far and away makes up the bulk of After Nature: Highlights and in places is as hard to read as a badly printed supermarket receipt--warns that to revert to the original by holding this page up to a bathroom mirror will be an exercise in conceptual futility. The reader clutches at straws. But this text is her response to the Editorial 'Spinning Threads' in Nature from 6 September 2012, which launched the package ENCODE, an encyclopedia of DNA elements, plus data-rich research reports as themed threads, harvestable as paragraphs, figures and tables--an interactive version of the fluorescent markers used by students to pick out memorable lines in set books.

She explains that the process, or 'riff', began by physically dismembering the issue, photocopying it, then scanning selected type to be deleted on a computer according to pre-established criteria determined by the prevalence of the most common English letters AEOT and AGCT--the symbols of nucleobase chemicals cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine genome as cantus firmus (a performance by poet Michael Weller using After Nature: Highlights as a score is in the offing). Interspersed with these signs are tantalising verbal off-cuts: ming, zing, NANOG, 28RIKEN, RNA, SUMO, gage, n, a cover-to-cover methodology of pattern recognition within ads, job pages, editorial, obituaries and commentary. So Jacobs's intervention discloses the veiled truth that language is largely junk, and without a key its meaning addled. In Part 2 of After Nature: Highlights, 'Vignettes', bits of free-floating jargon are overlaid by seismographic drawings. Academic findings such as 'networks may be achieved by entanglements the deformation is inhomogeneous' have much in common with the extended abreactive fugues of the Cambridge l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poet JH Prynne: borderline nonsense to a layman.

The book is paired with a video, Bestiary After Nature.mp4, which references every animal cited in the same issue of Nature and provides a melancholy watch as a litany of threatened invertebrate species, control mice, pathogens, parasites, dinosaurs and human beings as symbolised by lab technicians, JS Bach and tennis players fluidly resolves and decays against screensaver-type lush jungle greenery. Jacobs pushes the mood of transitoriness and loss dangerously close to kitsch by utilising the Woody Guthrie dustbowl ballad So Long It's Been Good to Know Yuh, 1935, as a soundtrack to her omnibus. Bestiary adopts a palimpsest-like style and was premiered during the recent conference 'Facing Extinction' organised by Gustav Metzger at UCA Farnham that called for the art and design world to 'take a stand against the ongoing erasure of species'. …

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