The first human to live for 500 years has already been born. So suggests a digital graphic novel by artist David Blandy, illustrator Daniel Locke and writer Adam Rutherford.
Helix launches next month and promises users the chance to interact with spider goats, DJ Kool Herc, Crick and Watson and the Great God Pan. But let me expand on that.
Spider goats are one of the finest achievements of the burgeoning field synthetic biology. They can spin web from their udders and this, apparently, has commercial applications.
DJ Kool Herc, a predecessor of this natural history mash up, features here as the inventor of hip hop. Professional fan Blandy has dropped him into the convoluted story of DNA.
As you may know, Francis Crick and James Watson also feature in that tale. But before uncovering the structure of genetics they worked on the Manhattan Project, another twist.
(Blandy and Locke also quick to give props to Rosalind Franklin who, despite her contributions to her colleagues’ discovery, missed out on the Nobel Prize.)
Pan comes into it as a foreshadowing of the goat story. He makes for a great illustration, in homage to Goya, holding court with worshippers complete with evil horns.
Locke drew inspiration from 1950s text books and and has worked up the four chapters of history and narrative in a flat, approachable and lucid style.
And what with the A-bomb, the hip hop, and the barefooted wanderer, who here lives to be 500, the project enfolds much of Blandy’s previous work as thoroughly as a double helix.
The pair were speaking at Lighthouse in Brighton on Thursday evening, along with a rep or two from Storythings, the digital agency which has brought the project to life.
But the two visual artists are keen to see a print version of their saga and hinted that the story could grow and grow, getting progressively more cosmic as it goes.
Graphic novels get a hard time in mainstream culture. Neither fine art nor works of literature they are often viewed with suspicion by traditional artists and writers.
But I found that after tapping through Helix on an iPad, just once, it really sunk in. This is surely a medium, given our web-fried memories, whose time has come.
Helix is a commission by Lighthouse and launches on April 8 2014. For more info on David Blandy visit his site, and watch a few of his films. Daniel Locke, meanwhile, is awaiting the publication of another graphic novel, 311 Ditchling Road, from Nobrow Press.
I lucked out with this: a press trip to the fifth Marrakech Biennale. Having never before visited North Africa, culture shock kicked in before we had even checked in at the (palatial) hotel.
As you see from this piece of guerilla marketing, the event asks ‘Where are we now?’. On my first night I was advised by some more experienced local hands to have adventures and ‘get lost’ here.
Asim Waqif’s sound sculpture, The Pavilion of Debris, jockeys for attention with a number of nesting storks. The locals revere these migratory birds and the city was once home to a stork hospital(!)
My understanding of nomadic war machines is limited, but I imagine they would look something like this super-charged crossbow. Max Boufathal reportedly has popular culture in his sights.
This is perhaps the most talked about exhibit on opening week, an F1 engine made locally using craft materials. 50 different craftsmen and women were apparently used to construct this sculptural beast.
Possibly one of the strangest gigs this musician has ever been booked for. Gabriel Lester walled up a gnawa band inside a performative sculpture. I’m still not quite sure why, but it was compelling.
Here you see an offline, open source, 3D printer engaged in crafting the model of a star shaped clay dwelling. Operators, Urban Fab Lab, aim to one day work on life-size scale in rural Africa.
This was Hicham Benohoud’s iconic signage on the Bank Al Maghrib. Whether or not the Biennale has flipped this city on it’s head, there were plenty of sights to flip out this foreign visitor.
My favourite work, a geometry lecture at twilight in the city sqaure. As you can just about see, Saâdane Afif is here discussing the circle with an audience of everyday Moroccans, who were rapt.
Of all the venues, this unfinished opera house was the most impressive. The Theatre Royal now houses a sound installation by freq_out, in which 12 composers work in 12 stirring frequencies.
Finally, a proper showstopper by Alexander Ponomarev. Take one desert, one helicopter, one monumental installation of a ship and mix up with a set of letters in the sand to breathtaking effect.
And finally, a tortoise, attempting in vain to climb a step at the festival hub El Fenn. So long little guy! I get the feeling he’ll still be here in 2016; let’s hope this cosmopolitan Biennale is as well.
Two myths converge in an evocative piece by a sound recordist and a producer. The first myth concerns the most powerful Norse god and the second myth could concern you.
HRAFN will be staged in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, with support from the Forestry Commission. The artists reveal that Odin owned two pet ravens: Huginn and Muninn.
These two tame harbingers would sally forth at daybreak and observe goings on in the wider world, much like a pair of spy drones would do in this day and age.
Upon their return they would sit on Odin’s shoulders and tell him all that they had seen and heard. It intrigues me that such a major god was not already omniscient.
The ravens were web-like prosthetics. Huginn related to thought; Muninn to memory. Odin once said: “For Huginn I fear lest he return not home, but I am more anxious for Muninn”.
Chris Watson and Iain Pate have also been waiting for ravens. They’ve been waiting for the birds to return to roost on the site of a forest in the North East. The birds predate the trees.
The duo will take a group of art and nature lovers away from the car park, over a stone bridge portal and into the heart of the forest where they promise 2,000 of the birds.
But this is myth number two. Inspired perhaps by Loki, the god of mischief, the team are to engineer a 21st c. raven-based hack to achieve their desired effect.
And so, hidden speakers will pipe the birds’ cawing down from a canopy, from the vault of abundant conifers which have been compared to columns in the hall of Valhalla.
The birds will arrive with the darkness, a situation which has been restaged to disorienting effect at Jerwood Space, when the film comprising their proposal blacks out.
Now you wait, blind and anxious, until you hear the ravens arrive. There is a mood of conversation between these birds, both palpable and comforting.
You can even imagine, in the polyphonic soundscape, that you have a bird on either shoulder: one of them helping you think; one of them helping you remember.
For your benefit, I made the sound recording below. If you’re interested in the amazing work of Chris Watson, try this documentary about his work with David Attenborough.
This work together with pieces by Semiconductor, Amanda Loomes, Adam James and Juan Delgado can be seen in Jerwood Open Forest, Jerwood Space, London, until February 23.
BREAKING: Since writing, I’ve been told that the film was just a proposal. So congratulations to Chris and Ian who, along with Semiconductor, have won a commission from the Jerwood Open Forest initiative. Their project will now take place in September 2014.