The Library of Imagined Genes

‘“I was interested in hearing about what the scientists do, we were asking about what kind of research they were doing and we were learning about sleep disorders and links to mental health and how DNA can affect that too, so that was cool” ’

The Library of Imagined Genes is an interactive performance and installation about the relationship between genetics, behaviour and emotions that was first presented at Green Man 2016. The project was developed by Angel Exit and Einstein’s Garden in collaboration with scientists from Cardiff University.

The Library’s sample curators, Ms Dewey Decimal and Ms Biblio Teckity, asked festival-goers to choose their favourite characters from literature, complete a “story survey” for their character and then invite them to donate their genetic information (their ink sample) via the library of imagined genes hotline – a direct phoneline and portal to all fictional characters.

Scientists then took them through the process of sequencing their characters “inkome” to separate the ink colours representing six different emotions. The activity was an analogy for how an individual’s genome is sequenced in the lab to reveal their genetic data.

An investigation board was set up to look at the links between the ink colours and the different emotions, compared to the character’s stories, their environment and the choices they made. This enabled researchers to talk to festival goers about their work investigating the role of different genes in mental health.

The Library of Imagined Genes was supported by the Wellcome Trust, as part of a three-year award experimenting with new approaches to creative science engagement. It was first presented in Einstein’s Garden at the Green Man Festival in 2016 and went on to perform in libraries including Cardiff Central Library.

Read a report of the project here

‘“We picked the character Arwen from Lord of the Rings. We got a DNA sample from some lovely ladies with cool pink hair, they helped us contact Arwen, she was hanging out in the Forest”’