Shaping Destiny is a multi-disciplinary public engagement project led by members of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) and TORCH. We are bringing together the fields of molecular biology and the arts, to explore the concepts of ‘destiny’ and ‘embodiment’. The science side, led by Professor Shankar Srinivas of the Srinivas Group, wrestles with the concept of ‘determinism’ and how certain cells are destined to create the certain body parts to which they relate (for example, heart cells are destined to form a heart). However, there are limits to the role of genes – through the project, we will investigate how our external environments and social norms influence our destiny and embodiment. On the humanities side, Professor Wes Williams, Director of TORCH, is exploring the idea of the human ‘norm’. Wes will delve into the perception of human differences through history. In the past, society explained congenital defects to be the work of devilish or divine intervention, or by the actions or thoughts of the mother during pregnancy. Dr Tomoko Watanabe, a scientist in the Srinivas group, is the project lead, coordinating the activities with the academic and non-academic project partners.
Shaping Destiny will work alongside external partners and community groups to explore these concepts via dance, theatre, and virtual reality. We will provide a cross-departmental study into embodiment and destiny which will provide us with an understanding of the link between the biological formation of organs and tissues and the development of human beings through social norms.
Find out more about the project by visiting Shaping Destiny Art
The team will be looking for volunteers to help at a number of stages across the project. Expressions of interest can be sent to Project Lead Dr Tomoko Watanabe.
Shaping Destiny is working with the following external partners in the project:
Sophie Stanley | Parasol Project, Oxford
Emma-Jane Greig | Body Politic, Oxford
Alexander Whitley | Alexander Whitley Dance Company, London
Kostas Pataridis | Andromeda Software Development, Oxford
Credits and acknowledgements
Karis Harrington (KarisGoneGonzo) is a freelance illustrator who has joined Shaping Destiny to create our logos, flyers and t-shirt designs. Based in Oxford, Karis’s art focuses on magical realism and dark surreal. Her designs for Shaping Destiny will be used throughout our social media, website and online content.
Leander Reeves, from the Oxford International Centre for Publishing, is a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. She joins Shaping Destiny as the consulting and co-supervision coordinator of the Digital Storytelling project.
In 2020, young disabled and non-disabled dancers from Oxford’s Parasol Project created a Digital Body film with Alexander Whitley Dance Company. Filmed remotely during the COVID pandemic, these short choreographies, inspired by conversations with scientists from the University of Oxford Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics explored how movement is coordinated within living beings. Real-world dance movements were captured and edited together with 3D motion graphics by artists Robin Ashurst and Abel Enklaar at Flat 12 and features music by Rival Consoles.
Find out more here at Digital Body: Convergent Pulses