Thursday, September 21, 2006
Why Should We Care About Genetics?
Another attempt by cultural organizations to both exploit and get involved in the "genetic revolution", an upcoming event in Chicago
, hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art there and the Illinois Humanities Council challenges the public to ask the "big questions". The thinking is that the humanities can access the imagination and critical faculties in ways that, I guess, science and politics can't.
I don't have a problem with trying to engage the developments of genetics through cultural conversations, obviously (that's what YOUgenics is about afterall), but if any kind of consequential discussion is to take place, those of us with concerns have to focus those concerns much more directly than the concept of "ethics" and "big picture" philosophical questions allow.
Those conversations need to happen, yes. Yes, it's important to discuss the implications of biotech on reproduction and evolution. But, while we're busy looking 25-50 years down the road, immediate impacts are being neglected and the ideology driving these developments left unchallenged. For better or worse, the food supply and farmable land of the US have been completely taken over by a very small group of interested corporations that are actively changing our relationship to food and medicine on a scale comparable to the industrial revolution, but with most of us completely unaware that it's even happening. This technological shift may prove to be necessary in the face of climate change
, but it seems dangerous to leave the discussion behind board room doors.
If art and the humanities have something to offer here, I think it's in the ability to make these immediate details and concerns palpable, visible, audible. Something that we can experience before it's history.
Monday, September 11, 2006
The Field Museum in Chicago is presenting an exhibition: Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics
from September 15, 2006 – April 1, 2007. If you scroll to the bottom of that link, you'll notice that Monsanto is the sponsor. While it's a simple, and pretty expected, position for a "life science" company to sponsor an exhibition about the "founder" of modern genetics, it may also be an indicator of the exhibition's willingness, or unwillingness, to address contemporary issues related to genetics and biotechnology.