Stem Cell Debate Enters Canadian Museum Halls
In April 2010, a group of international artists, scholars and scientists met in Banff, Alberta and began to explore questions surrounding biotechnology. The result is a compelling exhibition of paintings, sculptures, drawings, videos and photographs that respond to scientific advancements and the questions they raise in our society.
According to The Canadian Press, the exhibition, Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art, is aimed at advancing the heated discussion on stem-cell research.
Kirstin Evenden, president and CEO of the Glenbow Museum told The Canadian Press that “the artists have really spent a lot of time interacting with the scientists, learning about some of the challenges around the science of stem cell research and what it actually involves, scientifically, biologically and what the implications for research are long term.”Here’s a statement by one of the exhibit artists, Daniela Schlüter, artist of the panting adjacent to this paragraph: Daniela Schlüter’s large drawings reveal miniature stories. These artistic visions close in on the growing tendencies to transform the human into posthuman, homo sapiens into homo faber, someone born into something made. For this exhibition, Schlüter has been working together with stem cell researcher Paul Cassar.
Here’s what Sean Caulfield, organizer of the exhibit and brother of Tim Caulfield, research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta has to say about the exhibit:
There are many complex issues raised by biomedical research which society must face. It is very important to explore these questions through creative works because artistic language can offer unique articulations of the complex, polarized and often emotionally charged responses the public has towards technology.
The work of scientists involved in biomedical research, and particularly stem cell research, are engaged in explorations that are truly miraculous. While it is important for society to be cautious about how this research progresses, their investigations also have potential for tremendous good. With this in mind, artists need to ensure that they respond to the work of biomedical researchers in a way that is nuanced. I feel this exhibition does this by reflecting on many aspects of stem cell technology including both the potential positive and negative impacts of this new technology.
With any new technology, regardless of if it is stem cell technology or carbon capture, there is always a social and cultural dimension which society has to consider. I feel that this exhibition is a wonderful example of how individuals working across a number of disciplines and artistic practices can come together to exchange ideas and broaden dialogue in order to deepen our understanding of an emerging technology.
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