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The Expert (from the 'Rejects' series) - © Marlene Dumas
The Experiment (from the 'Rejects' series) - © Marlene Dumas
Location: Who am I?, first floor Wellcome Wing
The Expert and The Experiment are two watercolour and ink portraits of individuals that hang in a case exploring DNA identity. Dumas selected these two portraits for Who am I? from a series of works called Rejects. Portraits from the series are not normally titled, but for the context of the Science Museum the artist chose to give them deliberately cryptic titles which invite us to ask questions about how we perceive science and scientists.
Dumas wrote labels and titles for the two portraits to confront the viewer with some uncomfortable questions. Of The Expert she queries, 'Could you trust this person with your life?' and of The Experiment, 'What have they done to this person?' - providing in both instances an affirmative 'We do not know' answer, but no solution. In her practice Dumas's writing is as important as her imagery. These portraits were created in the 1990s, when cloning seemed to be a more remote possibility, but scientific advances mean that the ethics of human cloning are being considered in a way that would have been unthinkable when the Rejects series was first created.
South African-born painter Marlene Dumas (born 1953) uses newspapers and magazine cuttings as sources for the imagery that informs her work. Her work combines high- and pop-cultural imagery and twists our perceptions of sexuality, gender and race.
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