Working with DNA as an art material -Hair Lock and Hair Skull showing in ‘ Linear’ at LangKong, 798 -July2021

Hair Skull,artists hair, Niamh Cunningham 瑞莲 2013


The exhibition Linear is currently showing at LangKong art Museum(朗空美术馆)   in 798 (situated 3 doors away  from Red Gate gallery )

The Hair Skull has not been exhibited in 798 since 2013 so if you are in 798 please come along, you can also see the Hair Lock. These are works made over 7 years ago. The Hair lock was exhibited in New York (2015) and Taipei (2016) with the Intimate Transgressions project.

Hair Lock, artist’s hair, Niamh Cunningham 2015

Working with DNA as an art material :

Physically knitting your own genomic material is a very contemplative process. Each strand is tested for strength, elasticity and tensility before being selected for specific sections of the sculpture. The white hairs are strong and tensile and suspend the skull with ease. The coloured hair is soft but elastic and resilient.

All perceptions are acts of interpretation:

Being able to see through own genome and acknowledging it as your “coded” self as well as your personal story or experience, this screen of transparent knitted hair frames your world view. Holding on to the idea that it is my perception, acknowledging my referenced life (family traits and other things that are contained in my genome) and personal experience, this is what is framing my view of the world.


Consciousness is controlled hallucinations:

This is an interesting soundbite worth looking into. We know now that green red and yellow colours are not objective properties of objects in the world, they are just attributes of reflected light. And as the brain works out calculations of wavelengths of light it determines what colour something is. So we don’t even passively receive colour from the world but we actively attribute it to things in the world.

Neuro scientist Anil Seth talks about controlled hallucinations as being our consciousness and says it is not just our perceptions of the outside world but also ourselves, our memory, everything we perceive is a construction.  According to Seth instead of perception depending largely on signals coming into the brain from the outside world, it depends as much, if not more, on perceptual predictions flowing in the opposite direction. We don’t just passively perceive the world. We actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.

Hair Skull, artists hair, Niamh Cunningham 2013

Cultural perception and our ecological crisis:

This brings us back to our ecological crisis. How can we change our perspective and ways of relating to ‘life’ as a planetary process. Developing a cultural ability to see our actions and the changes we can make, to view this from a systemic perspective would be a good goal. I believe culture and the arts have a vital role in shifting these norms of perception to positive changes in consumer choice which will leading to new industries and economies which are actually sustainable.  



Many thanks to curator Chang Feng, whom I have known many years and for whom I have the highest respect. Also to director Li Zheng 李征 of Langkong Art Museum  and all the hardworking team involved in ‘Linear’ .

Opening of ‘Linear’ at Langkong art Musuem 798  on Sat 10th July 2021

Linear will be exhibited till Jul 30th. There are amazing works showing by these artists ,

阿德里亚·彼得斯Adrian Peters(德国)\阿莲娜Alëna Olasyuk(乌克兰)\比尔·彭伯恩Bill Pangburn (美国) \陈澈Chen Che \高风Gao Feng \张丹Zhang Dan \李家瑞Li Jiarui \李沅Li Yuan \邵维春Shao Weichun \卢琳Lu Lin \王世龙Wang Shilong \王琪Wang Qi \夏国Xia Guo \杨志凌Yang Zhiling \张庭群Zhang Tingqun \张泓Zhang Hong \冉启泉Ran Qiquan \ 李永庚Li Yonggeng \ 吉苏•金Gisoo Kim(德国) \ 丁文尧Ding Wenyao \何红云He Hongyun(德国)\瑞莲Niamh Cunningham(爱尔兰)\刘水洋Liu Shuiyang\奥罗拉·诺雷纳·佛朗哥Aurora Noreña(墨西哥)\青木健二Kenji Aoki(JAPAN/USA)\陈学刚Chen Xuegang.          


At the opening on Saturday it was great to see old friends from projects years ago such as

张庭群Zhang Tingqun

I first met  Zhang Tingqun at an exhibition in Ordos, Zhang’s focus on the line is tantamount to his control of the brush.

李家瑞Li Jiarui

Over the years I often bumped into Li JiaRui on different projects in Qingdao , Ordos  and even the Gobi Dessert ! His supersaturated infusions of line and motion create space and time yet to be imagined.

陈学刚Chen Xue Gang

I first met video artist Chen Xue Gang  on the train to Hohot in 2015 for an exhibition . I remember his GIFS and our conversation back then. His current video work is a delightful morphing of human form .

杨志凌Yang Zhiling

I met Yang Zhiling a few years ago on a special visit to his impressive studio. 

陈澈Chen Che

This week I have found a new friend in Chen Che whose interests also strongly interweave fragmentation with nature. He has great English and kindly helped me with translation during speech time.

阿莲娜Alëna Olasyuk

Olasyuk takes penmanship to a different level, my personal favourites are her black works which defeat the limits of the paper surface.

王琪Wang Qi


There are many more participating artists I am looking forward to getting to know . 

‘Linear’ will run till July 30th at Langkong Art Museum in 798 , Beijing , it will then tour other cities such as Shenyang, Chengdu and Shanghai. Please click on the links for a more detailed overview of this exhibition. 

To see an overall view of the artworks by these artists please click on the links


Link 1


Link 2