Home Exhibitions Genetic Automata

Genetic Automata Visual Story

Information to help you plan and prepare for your visit.

Introduction to Genetic Automata

Two people looking at a picture on the wall.

Genetic Automata is an exhibition.

The imposing white edifice of a neoclassical 1930s building. Wellcome Collection building, Euston Road, London, UK.
Source: Wellcome Collection. © Wellcome Collection.

The exhibition is at Wellcome Collection.

The entrance to an exhibition called Genetic Automata in a modern white-walled interior space with wooden floors and curved glass balustrade.
Source: Wellcome Collection. © Wellcome Collection.

Genetic Automata exhibition is in two of our galleries on level 1.

A calendar showing the date 8 June.

The exhibition started on 8 June 2023.

A calendar showing the date 11 Frebruary.

And finishes on 11 February 2024.

2 tickets that are crossed out.

The exhibition is free.

A person walking towards an open door.

You do not need to book, just turn up.

Visiting Wellcome Collection

For more information about opening times, accessibility, and how to get here, take a look at the Visiting Wellcome visual story.

Covid-19 and Keeping You Safe

We want everyone to have a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience. Click on the link to see our guidelines for protecting yourself and others.

About the exhibition:

Genetic Automata is an exhibition with four films by the artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy.

The films are about:

How science shapes how we think about race.

The false belief that there are biological differences between races.

Eugenics – a racist and ableist idea that some people should not be allowed to have children.

A piece of film.
A sound speaker.

The films have out loud sound via speakers.

The film rooms have low lighting and large bright screens.

A bench.

There is seating inside and outside the rooms.

Two people looking at a picture on the wall.
An open book.
A piece of film.
A camera.

There are also 26 objects in the exhibition. These include books, films, objects, and photographs.

The works have warnings about racist and ableist content.

Each film is shown in a separate room.

The films are between 10–15 minutes long.

You can watch them in any order.

You do not need to watch them from the beginning, but if you want to, there is a countdown screen outside each room showing when the film next starts.

This is a map of the exhibition showing the five different rooms.


A video screen with two men sat side by side hangs on a black painted wall with two headphones hanging on the wall beneath the screen. A long bench is placed immediately infront of the screen.

Larry Achiampong and David Blandy are artists and friends. They make work about how they are treated differently and why that might be.

There is a 10-minute interview with the artists shown on a screen with headphones.

A display case in a museum exhibtion with a sloped blue top showing books, films and videogames.

There is a display case showing some of the films, books and videogames Larry and David are influenced by. Soft electronic music plays out loud from below the display case.

Room 1: Legacies of Eugenics

Box of 16 glass eyes of different shades used as an eye colour guage.

In this room there are racist objects that were used to categorise people.

Wooden calibration device used to measure head size and other parts of the body.

They include instruments which were used to measure and count people.

Four whie plaster head busts of men arranged in a row in a glass display cabinet.

They were owned by Francis Galton and Karl Pearson, who worked at University College London in the early 1900s.

Six head and shoulder photographs of 3 different people showign them facing the camera and in side profile.

They were used to discriminate against people based on how they looked.

Room 2: _GOD_MODE_

A film plays on a large screen taking up most of the wall in a darkened room. Five long benches are arranged in two rows facing the screen for viewing.

'_GOD_MODE_' is a film is about eugenics and how it is still present today. The film is 12 minutes long.

A very enlarged secton of a human fingerprint showing whorls and broken lines making up the pattern,

The film starts with a close up of Francis Galton’s fingerprints.

A long room filled with two rows of computer processing equipment in the form of rectangular stacks to overhead cables. A corridor extends between the two stacks of computers.

The first half of the film takes place in the real world.

A huge black spider with round boddy and long spindly legs rest, face down against a sandstone wall covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The second half of the film is computer generated.

Room 3: A Lament for Power

A large video screen fills most of a wall in a darkened space. In front of the screen are three long benches in two rows, ready for viewing.

'A Lament for Power' is about the ethics of using people’s DNA without their permission. The film is 13 minutes long.

A bleak rural landscape contains a rickety wooken house with two bare trees on either side. In front of the house is a large black disc-shaped object, with a fold in the centre.

The film is made in videogame software.

In a bleak urban background four men stand staring agressively at the viewer, one has a large wooden plank in his hand.

It is inspired by the videogame 'Resident Evil 5', which features zombies

In a modern city background with tall steel and concrete buildings an huge black domed form fills half the image

A large black cell moves across different landscapes. The screen goes entirely black for the last minute of the film.

Room 4: Dust to Data

'Dust to Data' is about how archaeology has been used to make up racist stories about human history. The film is 15 minutes long.

A large video screen fills up the whole wall of a room with sloping walls and a cloth ceiling. In front of the screen are two long benches for viewing.

The room has a fabric ceiling.

Archaeological remains of three different hominid skulls, suggesting three stages of human evolution, arranged in a row against a black background.

The film shows ancient skulls found in archaeological digs.

A hominid skull lies half buried in a desert landscape. Behind it is a white pyramid shaped object

The film merges objects from the real world with landscapes from videogames.

Room 5: A Terrible Fiction

'A Terrible Fiction' is about how scientists have ordered and classified nature, including people. The film is 11 minutes long.

A large video screen fills most of the wall in a darkened room. Inf ront of the screen is a single bench for viewing,

There is an additional exit to the exhibition in this space, you could leave this way, or go back through the gallery to the main exit.

A dead, preserved small bird with blue feathers, a yellow underbelly and pointed beak lies on a white surface. A label is attached to its leg with string.

The film includes footage of stuffed birds.

An extreme close up of the surface of human skin, showing the uneven surface and tiny hairs.

The film has close ups of the artists’ skin and eyes.

Exhibition accessibility

There are different accessible guides that are available at the start of the exhibition.

The guides are:

An open book.

Ilustrated gallery guide

An eye.

Large print guide

Digital guide

The digital guide has audio described and British Sign Language tours of the exhibition.

You can watch or listen by scanning QR codes with a smart phone.

Or you can listen to AD by picking up a touch button handset and pressing the number of the audio stop.

A young woman with shoulder-length brown hair is smiling and looking straight at the viewer. She is dressed in black with a Wellcome Collection logo on her t-shirt.
Source: Wellcome Collection. © Wellcome Collection.

Please ask a member of gallery staff for help with digital guides.

Text transcripts of audio-only content are also available in the gallery.