Video: Art exhibit explores stem-cell research

Perceptions of Promise, the visionary University of Alberta art show that created an interdisciplinary dialogue between artists and scientists, has come home after a successful run that included a high-profile exhibition in New York.

“We’re so happy that it’s finally come home,” said U of A printmaking professor Liz Ingram. “Our students can now see it, and that is so important for teaching.”

The exhibition explores legal, ethical and social issues about stem-cell research through the eyes of U of A and other internationally known artists. Originally conceived by Sean Caulfield, U of A professor of printmaking, and his brother Tim, research director of the U of A’s Health Law and Science Policy Group, it brings scientists and visual artists together to broaden discussion of complex topics involving biotechnology.

The aim, say contributors, is not to take positions on either side of what can often be a divisive debate, but to provoke thought and inspire questions.

“Biomedical research, especially stem-cell research, tends to be very emotional,” says Sean Caulfield. “People have this polarized reaction to it. If we had one broad objective, it would be to see how art might bring a more sophisticated dialogue to the debate, because art tends to be able to articulate emotional and psychological things much more effectively. And I think it can bring people together.”

The works include an elaborately beaded sculpture created from CT scans of a human torso, a luminous tent with images of bodies and stem cells, and a video looking at our anxieties about the manipulation of human and animal DNA.

Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art is partly supported by Canada’s Stem Cell Network—the first time it has funded a group including artists. Finishing its tour in Edmonton thanks to a collaboration between the Perceptions team and U of A Museums, the show also had stops last year in Calgary and at the Chelsea Museum of Art in New York, and earlier this year at McMaster University in Hamilton.

The show opens Nov. 8 at Enterprise Square and runs until Jan. 5, 2013. Visit the U of A Museums website for gallery hours and event information.