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Winter What Ifs

25 Oct, 2010
The Other Volcano

The Other Volcano

This week sees the final refresh of the What If… display that has been intriguing and challenging people passing our windows this year.

The refresh sees three new installations, again designed by students from the Royal College of Art. The aim is to explore the impacts, both positive and negative, that science and technology may have on our futures.

The new projects explore the domestication of volcanoes, the collaborations between scientists and cat breeders and visions of future inheritance in both a genetic and an heirloom sense.

The Other Volcano by Nelly Ben Hayoun envisions a series of volcanoes, housed for a couple of weeks in the living spaces of volunteers. This will domesticate the most violent of natural processes, initiating a love-hate relationship with a ‘sleeping giant’ in the corner of the room, one with the power to provoke excitement with its rumblings, and fear for the soft furnishings of the living room!

Cat Fancy Club

Cat Fancy Club

This project was developed in collaboration with Austin Houlsdworth explosives designer and the volcanologist Carina Fearnley from the Earth Sciences department at UCL, London.

Cat Fancy Club, a film by Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope, follows several characters key to the development of specific cat breeds in the UK. Cats are the UK’s most popular pet and in addition to the millions of moggies we currently own there are increasingly diverse pedigree breeds available. Some breeders are using genetic testing and collaboration with scientists to produce these new breeds.

The film explores how these collaborations are bridging the traditional gap between amateur and professional science and providing a flow of information between these two worlds.

Genetic Heirloom by Revital Cohen looks at a near future scenario where parents are fully aware of their genetic make-up and the calculated risks of passing on undesirable genes or mutations to their children. How might this comprehension of genetic vulnerability change our behaviour?

Genetic Heirloom

Genetic Heirloom

The three items comprising the work investigate parallels between material heirlooms and genetic ancestry, looking at the emerging use of precious metals in medicine and cancer treatment. Each object address focuses on the emotional and psychological implications of genetic knowledge.

These along with previous What If… projects are on display until the end of the year.

Benjamin Thompson

Benjamin Thompson is undertaking a work experience placement at the Wellcome Trust.

Image credits:
Volcano: Nelly Ben Hayoun
Cat: Karen Guthrie, Nina Pope
Genetic: Revital Cohen

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