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Gene(sis)

Kings Play Cards...

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Gail Wight: Kings Play Cards . . . (detail), 2003; interactive video installation.

“The Human Genome Project has caught my imagination by the long shadows it casts,” says artist Gail Wight. In Kings Play Cards . . . she thoughtfully examines the history of genomics research at UC Berkeley, and looks at the ways in which the effects of the Human Genome Project have reverberated throughout the larger scientific community. Wight conducted extended conversations with professors and researchers on campus, as well as an independent study of the library collections. She found that, in her words, “the competitive nature of institutionalized science—whether academic or corporate—creates pockets of isolation and enforced marginalization. I am interested in the disciplinary boundaries that separate people working in distinct yet related spheres of an emerging field.” Kings Play Cards . . ., an interactive video installation in Gallery 3, integrates and juxtaposes in imaginary ways the University’s various physical spaces and diverse knowledge devoted to genetics. The project takes its name from a mnemonic device commonly used to remember the classification of living things: “Kings Play Cards On Fairly Good Soft Velvet” stands for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, and Variety.

Wight observes, “Inevitably, the popularity of the Human Genome Project causes it to be oversimplified and often misrepresented, inadvertently exacerbating its prima donna status in the world of serious research. In the interviews I have conducted for Kings Play Cards . . ., I have been overwhelmed by people's desire to talk about the ramifications of the Human Genome Project for the scientific and academic communities as a whole. They have been passionate about the possibilities and the lost potentials, candid in critiques and generous with praise, and all have seen connections within their own work. Ideally, I hope Kings Play Cards . . . can become a momentary place for community voices to join together at a critical juncture in the history of science.”

Gail Wight teaches in the art department at Stanford University. She received her M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and has a B.F.A. from the Studio for Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art. Before her Stanford appointment she was assistant professor of fine arts and intermedia and electronic arts at Mills College.

Visit the Gene(sis) Exhibition Website.

The exhibition was organized by the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, in affiliation with the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The exhibition is curated by the Henry Art Gallery’s Associate Curator Robin Held and, for the Berkeley presentation, BAM/PFA Senior Curator for Exhibitions Constance Lewallen and Associate Curator Alla Efimova.

The exhibition and related programs are made possible with generous support from the Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts, funded by the Ford Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Rockefeller Foundation; The Allen Foundation for the Arts; PONCHO; The Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities; SAFECO; King County Arts Commission Special Projects Program; ZymoGenetics, Inc.; and The University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences, as well as in-kind support from Carl Zeiss, Inc.; The Grand Hyatt Seattle; Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media; KUOW Public Radio; WRQ, Inc.; New Concepts Prototyping; Speakeasy Network; Northwest Mannequin; University of Washington Division of Genetic Pathology; and University Bookstore Computer and Electronics Center.

The BAM/PFA presentation of Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics is supported by the Consortium for the Arts, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, and UC Extension at UC Berkeley, and by The Harold and Alma White Memorial Fund. The exclusive media sponsor for Gene(sis) is San Francisco Bay Guardian.