ABOUT THE PROJECT

The World is in You is a science engagement project curated by Medical Museion. The project is composed of a wide range of activities including talks, events, film screenings, conversations, and digital outputs taking place between 2020 and 2022. The heart of The World is in You is a large-scale exhibition taking place at Kunsthal Charlottenborg from 30 September 2021 – 16 January 2022.
The project examines this connectedness through four themes – TIME, MICROBES, SPACE and GENERATIONS. Each draws on contemporary scientific research to engage the public with the major questions that this research raises about our bodily existence and ways of living.

The World is in You examines how the world around us affects our bodies – how our bodies are shaped by the larger, ultimately planetary, systems that weave into and through it. We feel that the notion of the interconnected body and world, has taken on new significance in the beginning of the 21st century. We see and experience how we are changing the planet around us, and there is an increased interest in how those changes are affecting our bodies in return. We are experiencing a connectedness both ‘downwards’ to the microcosmic world of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms living on and in our bodies, as well as ‘upwards’ to the macrocosmic planetary structures that support our very existence.

TIME // Our bodies have internal molecular clocks that tie us to the temporal rhythms of the planet. The research field, called circadian biology or ‘chronobiology’, studies the role of these temporal rhythms in physiology and raises profound questions about our individual lives and societal structures – e.g. how electrical lighting, shift work, and changing eating patterns are interacting with the temporal rhythms of our bodies.

MICROBES // Over the past decade, we have seen a tidal wave of research exploring the complex microbial ecosystems called the microbiome – the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies. It turns out that the microbiome plays a much larger role in our physiology, metabolism, and even mood and cognitive functions, than previously anticipated. This research ties our bodies to the vast microbial biosphere, which covers the entire planet. It raises a number of significant questions: What should we eat to maintain a healthy gut microbiome? And what might it mean if we have to understand ourselves as a ’we’ rather than an ‘I’?

SPACE // Taking its point of departure in astrobiology and space research, this theme examines the limits and possibilities of the human body if, in the future, the Earth is no longer our sole planetary habitat. What happens to our bodies if we to travel to, and even colonize, Mars? Taking the body out of the planet also serves as a mirror to reflect on how connected we are to our planet – and raises questions of whether we are at all capable of living in other environments.

GENERATIONS // Epigenetics is concerned with how the environment might change what the genes we inherit from our parents actually do. Genes act by being ‘expressed’, and this expression can be altered by changes in nutrition, environmental exposure, and possibly even trauma and other life experiences. The nature and scope of these mechanisms are still very much up for scientific debate, and raise a number of vital questions about the relationship between nature and nurture, and the molecular openness and entanglements of our bodies.

The four thematic areas, and research fields they are connected to, share a common point: They raise more questions than they provide answers. They represent new, complex and open-ended science. Accordingly, the project does not simply engage in classical science communication – by presenting facts and results – but employs a mixture of science, art and cultural history to dwell on the implications and horizons that the science opens. It does so not least because our relationship to, for example, time or microbes, cannot be settled in a laboratory – it is as much a set of cultural, historical and existential concerns. This open and transdisciplinary approach is at the heart of the project and the exhibition.

The World is in You is curated by the Medical Museion (part of the Department of Public Health and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research – CBMR) at the University of Copenhagen. Produced in collaboration with Kunsthal Charlottenborg.

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