Genomics Blog

March 12, 2009 6:45 AM
The Multimedia Gene
Filed Under: Mikenomics

Yesterday I joined one of the many webinars put on by the D.C. based Genetic Alliance. This one was was titled Genetics and Media: The Full Portrait, but don't let the title mislead you into thinking it was about mainstream media's treatment of genetic science. In this case the 'media' was really more mixed or multimedia such as dance, photography, and film.
The 3 presenters were Rick Guidotti - Program Director, Positive Exposure, Joanna Rudnick - Director of Development, Kartemquin Films and Elizabeth Johnson - Associate Artistic Director, Dance Exchange’s Teen Exchange.
A lineup such as that begs the question about what the heck any of them have to do with the Genetic Alliance or Genetics and the Media.

Ah dear reader, as the expression goes, read on because there was a lot to be said.

Rick Guidotti, travelled the world showing the beauty that he saw in various genetic conditions ranging from albinism to spinal muscular atrophy. His pictures are ones that only an ex-fashion photographer could pull off. Joanna Rudnick is a film producer who put her life out there for the world to see with her documentary 'In the Family', the story of her own positive test result for the hereditary “breast cancer” BRCA gene. The documentary was part of the PBS Point of View Series. Elizabeth Johnson talked about the Liz Lerman company's production of Ferocious Beauty which uses dance to explore the science and ethics of genetics. The Ontario Genomics Institute sponsored a performance of Ferocious Beauty in Toronto in the fall of 2007 which brought together the art and science community just as Elizabeth Johnson described in the webinar. The results of all three of those efforts really do give you a different perspective by adding a human side to the science.
Not everyone sees the science of genetics through the same set of filters. Some of the genetic diseases that Rick Guidotti captures with his camera makes people to turn away because they can''t get past appearances. Some people are paralyzed at the thought of their body bulldozed by a cancer causing genetic machine yet Ms. Rudnick turned it into an award winning documentary. And the bleak genetic future painted by science fiction is somehow put into perspective by a troop of dancers who weigh in with their own perspective.

Our own Imagning Science exhibit at the Alberta Gallery of Art explored the same territory and our digital art contest last year yielded some fantastic results and introduced science to people who would never seek it out in any other form.  
There was a time when all that was known about science came through art. With science moving at a pace few of us can keep up with, maybe art has once again found its place in helping to explain the complexity of not just the world around us, but about ourselves.

Check out the links and search for Joanna Rudnick ( for example ) or Ferocious Beauty on YouTube. Here is a sample of Ferocious Beauty:


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