Online Exhibition

First Look: Forking PiraGene

Copresented by Rhizome and C-Lab Taiwan as part of Shu Lea Cheang’s Lab Kill Lab, “Forking PiraGene” is an online exhibition that imagines gene writing and discovery as a collective practice, positing a sci-fi scenario in which people propagate a “pirate gene” through informal networks of exchange.

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The concept was originally proposed by two Taiwanese artist/hackers, Shih-Chieh Ilya Li and Audrey Tang, in the early 2000s as part of Kingdom of Piracy, an online exhibition curated by Shu Lea Cheang, Yukiko Shikata, and Armin Medosch. KOP responded specifically to Taiwan’s past as a base for pirates and traders, considering this history in relation to intellectual property piracy in the digital age. Its creators wrote in 2002 that in PiraGene, “Everyone can join the action of discovery a gene inside everyone, which determine the ability of creation and cultural survival acts.”

The works in “Forking PiraGene,” by artists Devin Kenny, Harm van den Dorpel, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sean Raspet & Francis Tseng, and Xin Liu, illuminate the personal, political, and aesthetic implications of working with genetic material. Suggesting alternatives to institutional uses of DNA for surveillance and law enforcement–or even standing in active opposition to such practices–these artists evoke the piratical possibility originally conjured by Li and Tang as part of the original Kingdom of Piracy project.

“Forking PiraGene” is being realized now as part of Lab Kill Lab, a 7-day, 5-work station feral lab project, conceived and directed by Shu Lea Cheang for C-LAB Technology Media Platform.


Major support for First Look is provided by the Neeson / Edlis Artist Commissions Fund.

New Museum Digital Initiatives are generously supported by Hermine and David B. Heller.

The Rhizome Commissions Program is supported by Jerome Foundation, American Chai Trust, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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