2016 - ongoing
Mixed media drawing on archival pigment print on Sunset Hot Press Rag paper and laser cut on vellum.
Installation size variable.
Mixed media drawing on archival pigment print on Sunset Hot Press Rag papers, 17"x 22" or 30"x 18"
Archival pigment print with laser cut on vellum, 17"x 11"
Read the statement at the bottom.
From April 2016 to December 2017, I was the Artist-in-Residence at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During my residency, I became curious about how medical science began in civilization, and how it evolved to the present moment. My projects at the Broad Institute wove together information taken from three different points in time—Ancient Origin, Contemporary Past, and the Present.
Ancient Origin is represented by the Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus from 1600 BC which included prognosis for the first time in recorded history. On this papyrus, rational science is not seen as being at odds with magic, and on its verso, magic spells are recorded as legitimate medical treatments. I incorporated magic spells from the papyrus in many different pieces. Contemporary Past is represented by the Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome, a scientific paper published in Nature in 2001. The Human Genome Project changed the way we do science forever. I incorporated the entirety of the Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome for “Sequencing stories.” The Present is represented by scientific writings traced by hand from the whiteboards at the Broad Institute. I scanned my traced drawings and layered each image to create complex visual forms.
Sequencing the past to the future
On the Edwin Smith Papyrus, I came to understand that rational science is not seen as being at odds with magic, and on its verso, magic spells are written as legitimate medical treatments. These spells—indecipherable to the untrained eye—operate as formal visual elements in my work, like technical scientific writings I observed on the whiteboards that can seem beautiful yet difficult for a layperson to visually understand.
Scholars posit that in ancient Egypt, the same content was transcribed many times, over a period of 200–300 years. This means that the methods of diagnosing and treating illness didn’t change significantly during those centuries either.
Only fifteen years after the sequencing of the human genome was completed, we’re talking about precision medicine and using CRISPR, a genome editing technology. During the past few decades, science, medicine, and technology have been moving at an exponential speed. We live in a compressed time in terms of technological and scientific advancement. We are moving fast, but the progress is not always a linear movement.
By looking back at history, I began to see science as cycles of exploration. Each discovery is not the end of a journey, but presents us with a new set of questions, and brings us to forge new pathways.
My works on paper pulls different languages and information from the past and the present to forge a journey for the future, and create rich dialogues, provoking and responding to elements from different time periods, and offer viewers a deeper reading on topics such as progress, knowledge, belief, loss and discovery, and the cycle of exploration. I imagine that our desire to believe in a cure, whether it’s considered clinical or magical, was inherent in our psyche or perhaps even in our DNA from the very beginning of human history. The desire to find cures for diseases is a part of human nature. Threading and connecting writings and images from three different historical points, Sequencing stories is a contemplation on our long relationship with disease, science, and medicine.
Special thanks to Bang Wong, Andrew Tubelli, and Mariya Kahn at the Broad Institute and FreeFall Laser for their assistance with laser cutting project, and Daisy Wong for her assistance with the installation at the Boston Arts Academy. Deep gratitude for the Broad Institute for giving me an opportunity to wander and observe around the Institute for extended periods of time. I'm grateful for many scientists and staff who welcomed me with their open arms and open minds. Special thanks to S.H. for her tireless support on many administrative and logistical matters during my residency at the Broad Institute.