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Sally Whelan: Introduction to the Second Annual Biopolitical Cultural Festival

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Published on Aug 31, 2012

Sally Whelan, Program Manager at Our Bodies Ourselves, introduces the Second Annual Biopolitical Cultural Festival.

The Biopolitical Cultural Festival featured an array of artistic forms, all of which aim to portray our shared concerns at deep emotional and cultural levels.

New York-based contemporary artist Paul Vanouse presented his work in Emerging Media forms.

Since the early 1990s Paul's artwork has addressed complex issues raised by varied new techno-sciences using these very techno-sciences as a medium. His artworks have included data collection devices that examine the ramifications of polling and categorization, genetic experiments that undermine scientific constructions of race and identity, and temporary organizations that playfully critique institutionalization and corporatization.

We were also treated to a live theatrical performance excerpted from Orchids, a play about reproductive technology by Canadian playwright, physician, and educator Dr. Jeff Nisker. The performance will feature New York-based actors Alanna Fox and Elena Glass.

Jeff's research is transdisciplinary, centering on public engagement for health-policy development, particularly regarding emerging genetic technologies. Similarly, his educational initiatives embrace the humanities and social sciences, such as in his narrative bioethics and health ethics through film courses. Jeff has written many scientific articles and book chapters, as well as six plays and several short stories that explore health issues and encourage compassion in healthcare. His plays have been performed throughout Canada, as well as in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

Writer and journalist Adam Smith presented an original short story themed around synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and human identity.

Finally, we honored the memory of beloved colleague and friend Charlie Weiner, who passed away in January. The inspiration for including an evening of the arts at the Tarrytown Meetings came largely from Charlie, a life-long activist, scholar, and educator whose foundational work on the social, ethical and political dimensions of science went hand-in-hand with his love for jazz and folk music and the arts in general. We commemorated his remarkable life and contributions to our work as we carried on the tradition of the Biopolitical Cultural Festival at the 2012 Tarrytown Meeting. The evening opened with a few remarks from Shelly Krimsky followed by a musical tribute composed by Doug Pet and performed by Doug on the saxophone with Jason Yeager on piano.

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