Shaping Destiny

shaping destiny  two colour logo

Shaping Destiny was a multi-disciplinary public engagement project led by members of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) and TORCH. We brought 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, wrestled 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 – during the project, we investigated how our external environments and social norms influence our destiny and embodiment. On the humanities side, Professor Wes Williams, Director of TORCH, explored the idea of the human ‘norm’. Wes delved 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, was the project lead, coordinating the activities with the academic and non-academic project partners.

Shaping Destiny worked alongside external partners and community groups to explore these concepts via dance, theatre, and virtual reality. We explored a cross-departmental study into embodiment and destiny which provided 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

or by contacting Dr Tomoko Watanabe.


Shaping Destiny worked 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

Lizzy McBain and Emma Webb | Oxford People's Theatre

Jess Shaw |

Gary Tanner | Man in a Hat 


Credits and acknowledgements

Karis Harrington
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
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.

Digital Body

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

digital body

Partner Reflections