Ways to encode a thought into DNA:

Synthetic biology methods of encoding information into DNA frame DNA as inert material and yet it has a capacity to act. DNA is 'lively' within the space of a body and relates to other lively material within the body. Life is not a static state, and the decoding and documentation of the ‘building blocks of life’ runs the risk of fixing meaning rather than allowing space for meaning to evolve. 

By following genetic metaphors of coding and DNA as codifiable material, I explore methods for mapping the basic elements of the genetic code to another signifier of my choosing. Thus DNA becomes an abstract language and evolution a form of communication across a deep time that I cannot fully comprehend.

STEP 1: Find something to map information to



  • There are four nucleotide bases: Adenine (A) Cytosine (C) Thymine (T) Guanine (G)

  • There are 21 amino acids:

  • There are 64 genetic codons:

STEP 2: Choose the type of information to map


  • Image

Create simple images and map points on a grid to codons in the genetic code.

The images on the left are early test ideas based on artist Joe Davis' 1996 work, Microvenus, which was in turn inspired by the work of Carl Sagan and Frank Drake to develop a code for sending a radio transmission into space.

The images on the right are secondary tests based on using a 64-bit gray-scale code as a means to translate two tones (represented by 0 and 1) into 64 states (represented by the codons in the genetic code).