Friday, April 29, 2011

Epigenetics Eh!

(click on the image for larger version)


Some background Info
London Ontario will host the Canadian Conference on Epigenetics (called Epigenetics, Eh!) next week May 4-7.  In collaboration, the organizers of the Conference and the London Arts Council offered 10 artists the opportunity to attend a presentation about Epigenetics from some local scientists who are specialists in this area. The artists were then commissioned to create a piece based on the presentation and understanding of the practice.

My Piece
I was one of the lucky artists asked to participate. Epigenetics is a rapidly growing field of science defined as:  "Any function change in the genome that does not involve an alteration of the DNA sequence."

In layman's terms one can view this as nature vs. nurture, where nature is a person's DNA, and nurture represents all sorts of external factors that can alter a person's physiology without changing their DNA.

What captured my imagination from the presentation on Epigenetics to the artists was the subject of Epigenetics and the environment. Specifically that chemicals in our environment can change the “readout” of our genes, and that multiple levels of these compounds (even if found at low “safe” levels) have an additive quality that combined can have a detrimental impact on a person’s health and well-being (not surprising at all, but nice to know it's confirmed at this epigenetics level).

For my piece, I wanted to focus at man-made chemicals found in the environment. I also didn’t think one piece would have the impact I was looking for, so I created a diptych (two pieces that work together as one) that depicts chemicals released into air, and chemicals released to the soil.

I wanted to show the beauty of our natural landscape, and through the use of text make the “invisible” chemical elements (not seen to the naked eye) visible. The listing of chemicals was taken from a report on environmental toxicology.

EpigenArt the Exhibition

The EpigenART Exhibition will display the work of all the artists involved for the duration of the conference at the London Convention Centre. We've all been invited to the banquet dinner (which I unfortunately can't attend as I'll be at TCAF), and also have been invited to some cocktail mixers where we'll get to talk about our works with the attending scientists.

Post-conference,the works will be exhibited by the London Arts Council Office and City of London Mayor's Office.

I want to thank the committee of the Epigenetics Conference as well as the London Arts Council for putting this all together. Rarely have I been treated so respectfully as an artist - we were really treated as peers in this conference and as participants who could help shed led on this emerging science. It's always been a great learning experience and collaboration!

For more info, see:

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