THE AMERICA PROJECT by Paul Vanouse
The America Project is a live, biological art installation that is centered around a process called “DNA Gel Electrophoresis,” colloquially described as “DNA Fingerprinting,” a process which the artist appropriated to produce recognizable images.
Visitors to the installation first encounter what might resemble a human scale fountain or decanter, which is actually a spittoon in which their donated spit is collected. Upon entering the exhibition, viewers will be offered a 1 oz. cup of saline solution and asked to swish for thirty seconds, then deposit into the spittoon. During the installation the artist will be extracting the DNA from hundreds of different spit samples (containing cheek cells) all mixed together. The DNA will not be individuated nor retained. This DNA will be processed to make iconic DNA Fingerprint images of power—such as a crown, warplanes and a flag, which will be visible as video projections of the live electrophoresis gels throughout the exhibition (see the crown image attached.)
Viewers will have the opportunity to reflect on some key concepts of America—such as the “melting pot” (in this case composed of spit samples), and the notion that power emerges from the people. Vanouse is also seeking to invert two assumptions about DNA imaging and essential human difference by showing:
1. A coherent image can be made from mixed up/contaminated samples and that
2. While much has been made of our differences, all human DNA is very similar—asserting his Radical Sameness manifesto that human DNA contains only “Islands of Anomaly in a Sea of Sameness”.