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Synthesizing Art and Science Through the Senses: Exploring the Aesthetics of DNA

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - 6:45pm to 8:45pm

Can our five senses open aesthetic doors to the fields of genetics and genomics? How does making—and experiencing—art help us interpret and understand science? Creators, scholars, and scientists came together for a fascinating conversation on how arts and popular culture can provide unique insights into the narrative of human history told through our DNA.

Panelists included media designer Kaya Sanan, director of Sanan Media and creator of the introductory film for the exhibition Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code at the Natural History Museum; interdisciplinary artists Mendi + Keith Obadike, whose recent project American Cypher investigates race and DNA through a sound-art installation, performance, and series of poems; and Priscilla Wald, a professor in the department of English at Duke University whose work focuses on the intersections of literature, science, and medicine. Carla Easter, deputy chief of the Education and Community Involvement Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute and one of the curators of the Genome exhibition, moderated.

Afterward, a glass was raised to the science and the art of winemaking in a special tasting that explores wine appreciation through the dual lens of genomics and sensory science with Marcia Pelchat, taste and smell researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and Jordan Harris, winemaker of Tarara Winery. Have you ever wondered why you might love a wine but someone else finds it unpalatable? Genetically based differences affect how each individual smells and tastes. Guests had the chance to experience and understand how these differences affect their own unique palate.