A Lament for Power is the outcome of a nine-month residency by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy at the University of Essex.
This ambitious new film explores the ethics of scientific discovery and the complex relationship between science, politics and race in our age of avatars, video gaming and DNA Ancestry testing.
A Lament for Power investigates how science can be used to understand the world – but also how it is exploited for economic and political ends. At its nucleus is Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951), a black American known to scientists as ‘HeLa’ – the name given to the cells that were taken from her body without her consent – and because of their ability to endlessly replicate and become ‘immortal cells’, have been used in numerous discoveries including mapping the human genome, cures for cancer and the development of Polio and HIV vaccines. Yet her contribution remained unknown for decades, reminding us of whose voices are erased from society’s narratives and in doing so, whose interests are served?
Weaving together images from sources that include the gaming world’s ‘Resident Evil 5’, Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s new commission takes the form of a video installation that creates a space to make visible the sometimes murky world of scientific research as they probe at the economic and racial divides that underpin our social structures.
Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s new work is informed by the research of Dr Antonio Marco from the School of Life Sciences, University of Essex, and Dr Santiago Oliveros previously from Department of Economics at the University of Essex, now at the University of Bristol.
This exhibition has been made possible through the support of the Arts Council England.