madeleine flynn and tim humphrey


ANAT synapse residency

epi-thet: 2008-2010


In 2008, we undertook an ANAT Synapse Residency at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, working on the sonification of genetic materials. Analysis of genetic material occurs through microarrays which visualise data. In addition to being visualised through intensity of luminescence, data can be sonified making it possible to hear as well as see a representation of the genetic process.As a result of this residency, we created a new installation work, epi-thet. epi-thet expresses the poetics of the unique individual and the given moment, and is a unique sonification and visualisation of public-domain data from genetic research, archived at Stanford University. Each actualisation of the data is a new composition, read through the specific time, the co-ordinates of the space, and physical data sensed from each audience member. epi-thet reflects on the relationship of the minute and the epic: which places human genetic material at the centre of an experience of the scale of being human.


Three microscopes stand in a very large space on platforms. The microscopes are lit from above. The rest of the space is dimly lit. The audience (from one to three) takes their position(s). As she/he lean down to look through the microscope, the sound slowly becomes more focussed and increases in dynamic until a grand ‘orchestral’ sound emerges around the viewer, and vibrating under them. The viewer is the conductor of this enveloping sweep of sound: the individual at the centre of the sound world of self. As they watch, the visual image in the microscope is a continually changing pattern of luminescence comprised of thousands of single gene chip arrays in sequence. The light on the viewer fades as the sound rises. As the viewer moves away, the light rises in intensity again, and the sound fades. Others in the space watch the five conductors/researchers at their platforms and experience an ensemble in sound and movement. The three microscope sculptures arise and fall in intensity of sound and light as the viewers move, creating an ensemble of interaction across the space.

epi-thet builds on our previous developments of installation that is focussed on the contextual and relational qualities of sound in culture. Epi-thet was presented at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2010.