- Leah Yin Blog A Sweet Combination of Art & Design
It happened 15 years ago. Science became flesh. Dolly the sheep was the en-fleshed reality of men's biotechnological advancement; The first mammalian lifeform created through the process of nuclear transfer using adult somatic cell. Bypassing the natural sperm and egg fertilization process, Dolly, is a 100% man-made clone. Strangely, but not surprisingly, her physical remains has been stuffed and turned into a trophy on public display since her death at age 6 (2003) at the Museum of Scotland (watch video).
"Dolly is a significant sign of our times. In the age of biotechnology, she represents a sacrament of today's post-humanist religion of science; An enfleshed technology with every fiber of her being expressing humanity's bio-nuclear progress and potency.
Cute, shy, harmless, dumb; These are just some collective generalizations we have of sheeps. It is obvious to me from a mass communications standpoint, that sheep, was strategically and subversively chosen as the new face of science to understate the potency of cloning in the public realm. As the vehicle to en-flesh and act as the interface to the world, Dolly, with her very sheepishness, distracts us from what lies within- the power and unpredictability of a new mechanism working within it's very nucleus. I command Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and colleagues at the Roslin Institute for their clever abduction of a culturally and religiously rich ancient metaphor and I dare say, consequently create the most brilliant PR strategy for branding a new technology that the world can fall in love with.
On Feb. 24, 1997, at age 15, I remember watching Peter Mansbridge on CBC's, The National, declaring the birth of a baby lamb called Dolly on tv. Immediately, I connected that image naturally with the decorative sheeps I saw in the nativity scene two months ago while celebrating Christmas at church. I felt no fear because I saw a sheep. The rest of the news was a public debate that came in one ear and out the other. Reflecting back, I am now deeply troubled by the cognitive process I undergone.
Dolly is a significant sign of our times. In the age of biotechnology, she represents a sacrament of today's post-humanist religion of science; An enfleshed technology with every fiber of her being expressing humanity's bio-nuclear progress and potency. Riding on the existing contextual impressions we have of sheeps, Dolly, as a signifier, has subversively understated a monumental milestone in human history in our collective memory. As a media phenomenon, Dolly's appearance on-air is as significant as Einstein's declaration of his atomic formula or Oppenheimer's first introduction of nuclear weaponry on black and white American television.
In the article, Power without Responsibility: Media Portrayals of Dolly and Science from Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (September 2000) states: "The media's reporting of Dolly revealed serious difficulties in the relationship of science to society. Although there were failures of journalistic accuracy and balance, these should not be allowed to obscure the deeper issues ". Now in 2011, I hope to re-open the discussion of Dolly the sheep using my painting to catalyze conversation. Reflect. What do you think about Dolly and her significance as a historic event, as a scientific milestone, as a media phenomenon and most intriguing to me, as an evolving metaphor?
One person I would love a response back from is Vincenzo Natali, the director of Splice, a film designed to get you thinking about the ethics of genetic engineering. I wonder how the world in '90s, would have responded (personally, politically and policywise) to the face of Dren ("nerd" spelled backward) instead of Dolly.
Citation: TOM WILKIE and ELIZABETH GRAHAM (1998). Power without Responsibility: Media Portrayals of Dolly and Science. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 7, pp 150-159
FYI: A quick and interesting read: Times Magazine: What the World will look like by 2050