The Xenotext

Protein 13 (Postscript 2013) - The Power Plant (Christian Bok)

“The Xenotext” is an artistic exercise currently being undertaken by the poet Christian Bök, who proposes to create an example of “living poetry.” Bök plans to generate a short verse about language and genetics, whereupon he plans to use a “chemical alphabet” to translate this poem into a sequence of DNA for subsequent implantation into the genome of a bacterium (in this case, a microbe called Deinococcus radiodurans—an extremophile, capable of surviving, without mutation, in even the most hostile milieus, including the vacuum of outer space). Bök plans to compose this poem in such a way that, when translated into the gene and then integrated into the cell, the text nevertheless gets “expressed” by the organism, which, in response to the inserted, genetic material, begins to manufacture a viable, benign protein—a protein that, according to the original, chemical alphabet, is itself yet another text. Bök is, in effect, striving to engineer a life-form so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem, but also an operant machine for writing a poem—a poem that might conceivably survive forever….


Date & time

Tue 30 Oct 2018, 4.30–5.45pm


Sir Roland Wilson Building


Dr Christian Bök (Charles Darwin University)

Event series


Penny Brew
+61 2 6125 4357


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