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Personal Eugenics

Wayne wants to become intelligent, cultured, sporty.

Chuck wants to become bold, courageous and sexy.

Tessie wants to become worldly, wicked and wanton.

Who said self-improvement had to be hard work? Now you can change with just a few clicks of the mouse! Evolve yourself and others quickly and without pain. Achieve in only seconds what would take nature generations…

Personal Eugenics explores the expectations of living in a cultural tradition that seems to privilege progress above all else. How does the individual internalise these expectations?

Eugenics was conceived in the 19th century as the science that would facilitate the improvement of the human race through selective breeding. While eugenics was discredited by the "excesses" of the Nazi holocaust, its thinking continues to be a prominent strand in intellectual thought, manifest perhaps most explicitly in the emerging biotechnologies.

And yet, our drive to modify and augment the human body seems to be undermined by the emergence of technologies through which our experience is becoming increasingly disembodied. Personal Eugenics allows the user to reconfigure their face as easily as they might change their online identity.


"When Sir Francis Galton envisaged eugenics as the science that would prevent the degeneration of the human race by giving 'more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable' in 1883, he undoubtably was not anticipating John Tonkin's appropriation of the concept in his project, Personal Eugenics" Canberra Contemporary Art Space, press release

"…the inventiveness of Personal Eugenics doesn't reject the biological but incites its endless, generative malleability. To this end, Personal Eugenics promotes a system of bio-affective-genetic variation and diversity that Galton's eugenic science can never properly contain."
Disreputable Science, Elizabeth A Wilson


Personal Eugenics is a part of meniscus (; a series of three web based works informed by the enlightenment sciences of physiognomy, anthropometry and eugenics. The works explore ideas relating to subjectivity, scientific belief systems and the body.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, it's arts funding and advisory body.

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