Bio Art Seminar - Art 895

"There is no question as to whether there will be undesired outcomes; my interest is in whether we will be able to love them"

Š Patricia Piccanini, In Another Life exhibition catalogue, Wellington City Gallery, Wellington, NZ 2006

Bio Art describes the variety of artforms that use as their medium and/or inspiration, biotechnology, genetics, ecology, plants, animals and other lifeforms, be they living, semi-living or artificial. The historical background and current trends, as well as the social, political and ethical issues brought up by artwork created in this field will be explored in readings, lectures, discussions and student presentations.

Students will be evaluated on participation in class discussions (50% of grade) and on presentations of actual artwork engaging this field, or a well-researched proposal with drawings/models and visual references (50% of grade). Discussions will be based on the lectures and weekly readings and will be stimulated by students' written questions or statements related to each reading. The presentations will be 15-20 minutes and will be scheduled during the last 3 weeks of classes.

Class Meeting Time: Wednesdays 6:30 - 8:18pm Place: Haskett Hall, room 408

Instructor, Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art, Art & Technology

Required Book: Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, ed. Eduardo Kac, (MIT Press, 2007) Š It should be available at the bookstore. Interesting review of this book in Mute Magazine

Schedule overview


- Jan 9

Introduction to course and each other. Overview of Bio Art concepts, exhibitions and artists. Notes



- Jan 16

Manipulation of living things

Readings to do before class:
Art that Looks You in the Eye: Hybrids, Clones, Mutants, Synthetics and Transgenics, by Eduardo Kac, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, (read pp. 1 -14)
Why I Breed Plants
, by George Gessert, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 185 -197
OneTree, by Natalie Jeremijenko, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 301 - 302


- Jan 23

Political and ethical dimensions

Readings to do before class:
Chapter 2 Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, by Vandana Shiva, South End Press, 1997
Leonardo's choice: the ethics of artists working with genetic technologies, by Carol Gigliotti
The Relative Velocity Inscription Device, by Paul Vanouse, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp.277 - 283
[optional: Amateurity and Biotechnology, by Natalie Jeremijenko, download PDF from Biotech Hobbiest]
[optional: Liberating Life from Itself: Bioethics and Aesthetics of Animality, by Dominique Lestel, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 151 - 160


- Jan 30

Art inspired by biology, living systems and artificial life

Ken Rinaldo will do a guest lecture today about his living systems-inspired artwork

Readings/watchings to do before class:
Technology Recapitulates Phylogeny: Artificial Life Art, by Ken Rinaldo
Online video of Theo Jansen: The art of creating creatures
NOVA video segment on Artificial Life
[optional: Life Art, by Louis Bec, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 83 - 92


- Feb 6

Art and ecology

Readings to do before class:
Ecovention, Current Art to Transform Ecologies, (Introduction) by Sue Spaid.
A New Front, by Suzi Gablik

The Art of Unnatural Selection, by Brandon Ballengee, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 303 - 307
[optional video viewing: William McDonough: The wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle]


- Feb 13

Biological materials in the gallery

Readings to do before class:
Edward Steichen's 1936 Exhibition of Delphinium Blooms
, by Ronald J. Gedrim, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, ed. Eduardo Kac. pp. 347 -369
Blood and Bioethics in teh Biotechnology Age, by Dorothy Nelkin
in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, ed. Eduardo Kac. pp. 115 - 123

Student presentations begin


- Feb 20

No class! - I'll see you at the College Art Association Conference in Dallas. I'll be on the panel "Greenmedia Futures: Combining Art and Technology to Promote Sustainability" Organized by Tiffany Holmes. Other panelists are: Beatriz da Costa, Michael Mandiberg, Andrea Polli and Linda Weintraub


- Feb 27

Science/Art collaborations and residencies

Readings to do before class:
Chlorophyll Apparitions
, by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, in Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, pp. 199 -209

Student presentations


- Mar 5

Futures hopes and fears

Optional reading of the week:
The Future of Science...Is Art?
from Seed Magazine

Student presentations

Art and Tech Exhibition set up day - The theme is Seed. If you'd like to participate in this exhibition, all artwork must be dropped off between 12:30 and 2:30pm in the Haskett Hall Gallery. The arrangement of each piece in the show will be determined by the instructors and installation crew at 2:30, so your work will not have a space in the show if it arrives late. If hanging your work involves more than a typical screw in the wall, you must return to hang your own work, between 3:00 pm and 6pm. Your work must be professionally presented. You will be responsible for bringing what you will need for the installation of your work; tools, hardware, projectors, pedestals, DVD player etc. Reserve equipment from Classroom Services far in advance to ensure availability. You must also remove the work from the show on Friday, between 4 and 5pm.

Thursday - Seed exhibition Opening Celebration from 5 - 9pm . Invite your friends/family!

This schedule is subject to change - I'll keep you posted


Eduardo Kac, ed. Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, MIT Press, 2007.
Dmitry Bulatov, Biomediale: Contemporary Society And Genomic Culture, Kaliningrad 2004.
Sue Spaid, Ecovention, Current Art to Transform Ecologies, Contemporary Arts Center, June 2002.
Oron Catts, ed. The Aesthetics of Care? Nedlands, Australia: School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, 2002.
Oron Catts, Biofeel, BEAP Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth, 2002, exhibition catalogue published by the Curtain University of Technology, edited by Paul Thomas
Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, South End Press, 1997.
George Gessert, "Notes on Genetic Art," Leonardo Vol 26, No. 3 1993.
Steve Baker, The Postmodern Animal, Reaktion Books, 2000
Sheilah Britton and Dan Collins, ed, The Eighth Day: The Transgenic Art of Eduardo Kac, The Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University, 2003
Vilem Flusser, Curie's Children, * First published in: Art Forum, October 1988, p. 9
Roy Ascott, ed. Engineering Nature: Art & Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era, Intellect Books, 2006
Suzanne Anker and Dorothy Nelkin, The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004
Michael Pollan, Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World. New York: Random House, 2001
Catherine Chalmers, American Cockroach, Aperature 2005
James Serpell, In the Company of Animals: a Study of Human-Animal Relationships, Cambridge University Press 1996
William Cronon, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996
Ernst Haeckel, Art Forms in Nature, Dover Publications; Rev Ed edition 1974, originally published in 1904 - that version is in the public domain and online here

More: Art and Genetics Bibliography, Compiled by George Gessert

Related Blogs

Organism: making art with living systems
New Genics
Next Nature
We Make Money Not Art
New Scientist Headlines

Exhibitions and Conferences

Art Biologic, Hudson, NY, May 3-24, 2008 - APPLY TO THIS ONE! submissions due Feb 29
Biological Imperative,
Newark, NJ June 14 - July 26 2008 Š APPLY TO THIS ONE! submissions due april 15
Liverpool, UK - February 1 - March 31 2008
Czech Republic 2007
Bios 4,
Spain, 2006
Report in English
BioArt and Public Sphere
Conference, 2005
ART et BIOTECHNOLOGIES, Conference and book, Montreal, Canada 2005
Becoming Animal, Mass MOCA, Massachusetts 2005
Biennale of Electronic Arts, Perth, Australia 2004
BioFeel at the Biennale of Electronic Arts, Perth, Australia 2002
Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution, New York, 2000
Next Sex, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria 2000
LifeScience, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria 1999

Amy Youngs | Art & Technology | Department of Art | The Ohio State University