Thursday, March 27, 2008

*** Class Readings ***

For each class the students will be required to complete the assigned readings. These readings will be available on line for a period of one week before the class. After that time, they will be removed for copyright purposes. The readings can be found at:

For the first class on April 04, 2008 each participant should complete the following readings, and be prepared to discuss them in class:

Richard Lewontin, "A Science as Social Action" from Biology as Ideology the Doctrine of DNA. Anansi Press: Concord. 1991 pp 81-97

Gessert, George. “Notes sur l’art de la selection végétale” in L'art biotech’., Jens Hauser, ed. (Nantes, France : Le Lieu Unique, 2003), p. 47 Catalogue from the exhibition L'art biotech’ (authors’ english version).

Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar, "An Anthropologist Visits The Laboratory" from Laboratory Life: the construction of scientific facts. (second edition, enlarged) Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.


BioArt: Contemporary Art and the Life Sciences
Jennifer Willet 2008

Do artists cross the line when they breed plants or animals, or use the tools of biotechnology? Scientists routinely cross the line. So do farmers, business people, military men, and doctors. Only artists and certain religious people hesitate. Of course one of the great human dilemmas is that we do not know the extent of our powers. We invent outrageously and casually as we breath, but we have no idea where our inventions will take us. Extinction? Slavery? 1000 years in Disneyland? Even if the Holocaust had never happened, we would have good reason to worry about where knowledge of genetics and DNA will take us. We will need all the awareness we can muster to engage evolution. To the extent that art favors awareness, the more artists who cross the line the better.

George Gessert

BioArt: Contemporary Art and the Life Sciences is an innovative course that will allow for non-specialist students to engage theoretically and practically in the biological sciences towards fostering a critical participatory engagement with the biological sciences from a fine art perspective. This course is a studio art and science crossover lab intended for students from various disciplines to foster interdisciplinary exploration of the intersections between art and life through hands-on laboratory protocols, critical readings, and the production of contemporary artwork.

Together we will explore the ethical debates, issues of access and accountability, and overspecialization that arise from contemporary biotechnologies and BioArt practices. Lectures will address a range of topics including; the biological sciences, historical crossovers between the fine arts and the hard sciences, and contemporary artists in the art/science field. Practical workshops will provide students with introductory experience with mammalian tissue culture, microscopy, DNA extraction and imaging, and genetic modification (amongst others) with an emphasis on health and safety and proper laboratory technique.

Students will be expected to complete weekly readings, participate in class discussions and lab workshops, and produce individual and collaborative artworks and critical written texts.

Additionally, each student will participate in a final class project in collaboration with artist/instructor Jennifer Willet Called InsideOut: Laboratory Ecologies. Each class will include a 30 min meeting in preparation for the final installation/performance.