'Up to about the second decade of this century photography was, part of the collective endeavor in the production of anthropological data....photographs were collected, swapped and archived for the common scientific good as part of the collection of raw data from all over the world for analysis at the metropolitan centre.'
Anthropology and Photography 1860 - 1920 edited by Elizabeth Edwards. Yale University Press 1992.
Roshini Kempadoo's digital art is concerned with the historical representation of the black individual, the notion of difference and its re-presentation into a contemporary context. The work particularly focuses on difference as it is visually mapped using photographs as key social documents. Future Belonging is a new body of work by Kempadoo and is an artistic response to the increased information and active development of gene biotechnology by the medical and science professions.The work reflects two significant developments; the gene mapping process currently underway by scientists; and the historical mapping process in the form of anthropological images of world races from 1860 to approximately the 1920s.
The photographs of 1860s onwards gained evidential value for anthropological study in classifying and defining specific race characteristics of groups of people during the colonial expansionist period.Gene biotechnology is a more complex juncture of activity and moves scientifically to much, much more precise detail. At its core is the gene as a functional unit of inheritance, the genome as a complete complement of genetic information with the human genome having an estimated 100,000 different genes. Scientifically mapping the human body to this extent is and will revolutionise our approach to cures for disease, issues of reproduction and in doing so further expands our knowledge of the human type. That is it provides the data for the medical/science profession to map genetic constructions of our family, ethnic and race groups. While the intention of these specific research spurts remains the same, they nevertheless inevitably throw up an immense amount of ethical and moral issues for debate and comment.
Created as an interactive Internet artwork and digital prints, Future Belonging visually locates some of these issues against a backdrop of physical landscapes while critiquing the role new technologies plays in relation to the collection of data of the individual.
'..geneticists are now attempting to identify genetic predispositions and genetic propensities for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and schizophrenia. Worse still are the attempts to identify genetic predispositions for alcoholism, homosexuality and criminality, all of which are overwhelmingly under the influence of environmental and social factors. This not only diverts attention from the real causes of illness but also increasingly stigmatises individuals, through placing the blame of societys ills on peoples genes, and through arbitrary categorisation of normal versus the abnormal.'
Unravelling gene biotechnology Mae-Wan Ho. From the journal Soundings Issue 1 August 1995, Lawrence and Wishart.