Evolution by Esther Fox: Francis Galton the “Father of Eugenics”

  Part of Brave New World Exhibition

Evolution is a piece of Virtual Reality created by Esther Fox in collaboration with other disabled people. Stepping into the imagined study of Francis Galton, the viewer explores a VR world and fantasy collection of specimens. When asked to make their own selections they face uncomfortable questions about what we value and what we discard.

Specimen jars sit on a table in a booked lined room

Evolution Specimen Jars: Esther Appleyard-Fox

Genetic screening is soon to be widespread; however, there are few opportunities for the public to engage with this topic. Looking at the troubling legacy of eugenics offers a framework through which to explore the complexities of the ethics relating to screening. Requiring the viewer to actively make choices, places the onus of responsibility on that individual. This is reflective of current-day policies on genetic screening, where choice for that individual is only presented as being a positive thing.

However, there is little public discussion about the pressures and difficulties that come with choice and having to make these life-changing decisions. Did you make the “correct” choice? Evolution aims to show the viewer that trying to make any choices lead only to disappointment as balance and diversity cannot be achieved. Evolution enables audiences to take a step back and reconsider contemporary ideas about classification and value.

This work was co-produced through a series of workshops that engaged disabled people with lived experience of genetic conditions.

The VR experience was designed by BRiGHTBLaCK for the Brave New World Virtual Museum