Code or Chrysalis

2024 | Video | 18:30 min | UHD | 16:9 | stereo sound | with online research platform

Code or Chrysalis is a film based on the imaginaries, obsessions and amnesias that surround DNA, often dubbed the ‚Code of Life‘. It looks into science histories and fictions, and the afterlives of scientific metaphors spurred by the information age. The film follows DNA‘s through labs, decryption hypes and historical theaters of knowledge. What parts of us are readable - in so-called books of life, in today‘s black boxes – and by whom?

Developed in the laboratories of Fraunhofer Institute ENAS for nanotechnology and taking its departure from the procedure of DNA folding, the film hinges on the scientific metaphor of DNA as ‚Book of Life‘. In the 1950s, Cold War decryption and early language automation fueled the long-standing imaginary of DNA as ‚universal authorless text‘, that can be read, decrypted, edited, copied and cut. The image of a genomic ‚Book of Life‘—laden with religious resonances — today animates posthumanist fantasies and resonates with ideas of codeability of human-like intelligences in AI, while affecting our basic notions of humanness and so-called normality.

Installation views

re:sourcing, Fraunhofer ENAS x Funken Academy, Villa Rosenberg, Chemnitz, DE

Video stills


script, editing, DOP, sound
        Laura Leppert

special thanks
        Carolin Liebl & Nikolas Schmidt-Pfähler, Julia Hann (Fraunhofer ENAS), Mathis Janssen (Fraunhofer ENAS)

        Museum of Natural History, Berlin; Theater of Animal Anatomy, Berlin; Fraunhofer ENAS, Chemnitz; Gutenberg Museum, Mainz

supported & funded by

        EU Kulturhauptstadt 2025, Kulturstiftung des Freistaats Sachsen, Klub Solitär e. V., Ars Electronica Linz, Social Impact EU

      All images and content if not stated otherwise © Laura Leppert 2023.