The Ohio State University > Department of Art > Art & Technology

Art 661.01

Aspects of Art & Technology: Living, Biological and Eco Art

George Gessert's Iris breeding project Farm Fountain by Ken Rinaldo and Amy Youngs Gail Wight's Rodentia at the San Jose Museum of Art 2006 Stelarc's Extra Ear artwork by Marta de Menezes
Photos by Amy Young

"All of our dreams are going to come true. So we will have to have the right kinds of dreams. That is why science needs artists like me." – Joe Davis

“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.” – Lewis Thomas

Course Description

5 Credit hour studio course focused on Bio Art: art that is inspired by and/or uses the materials of biology, biotechnology, genetics, ecology, plants, animals and other life forms, be they living, semi-living or artificial. The historical background and current artistic strategies, as well as the social, political and ethical issues brought up by artwork created in this field will be explored in readings, lectures, discussions, fieldtrips and student artwork developed in the course.

Technoscience alters our food, animals, health, earth and our relationships to these things. Artists, technoartists, DIY biologists and environmentalists have been developing creative strategies to participate, interact, inform, intermingle with, interrupt and critique the culture of technoscience. Bio Art is an umbrella term used to describe this work. Artists whose work engages biology or the environment are also engaging technoscience. As artist Claire Pentecost writes in her essay in, Tactical Biopolitics, "Now the contemporary art corresponding to the earthworks of a previous generation integrates new technologies, cognizant that technology, as much as anything, sets the terms of the human relationship to the natural."

Course Meeting Time and Location

Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30 - 5:18 Hopkins Hall, room 152 (Check the schedule though, there are a few field trip meetings in alternate locations)


Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art
Email: - best way to contact me
Telephone: Art Department (614) 292-5072 - a place to leave messages for me.
Mailbox: 258 Hopkins Hall
Office: Hopkins Hall, room 152. Appointments by email

  • To create art engaged in the concepts and practices of Bio art and/or Eco art

  • To gain a understanding of the theories and artistic strategies used by Bio artists and a demonstrated abiliity to utilize, remix, discuss and invent them creatively.

  • To professionally mount and exhibit a unique Bio / Eco artwork in the end of the quarter Art & Technology Exhibition.


Two completed art projects, 1 research notebook, participation in the end of the quarter Art and Technology exhibition, regular attendance and participation in class activities and discussions. An average student can expect to work an average of 9 hours per week on class work outside of class time.

Required Readings

We will have weekly readings for discussion. They will be available online or in the library. Check the schedule for details.


20 points – Project 1 - HyperNature
20 points – Field Notes - your observations, sketches, maps, reflections, notes and ideas connected to the topics in this course and your art projects.
20 points – Active participation in class activities and discussions, as well as general class citizenship.
40 points – Final project - a living, bioart or ecoart inspired artwork completed and exhibited in the Art and Tech show during the final week of classes.

Attendance policy

Don't miss class. Don't arrive late or leave early. You are expected to come to class on time, ready to work, discuss or present, depending on what is scheduled that day. Your final grade will be lowered by one full letter upon your third absence - and again for each additional absence. 3 late arrivals or early departures = 1 absence. Absences are absences, whether or not you have a note. Please use your 2 allowed absenses wisely and please contact me by email or message to the Art Dept office if there are extenuating circumstances. You are responsible to find out what you missed and to complete any missed work. There are only 20 days of this class, don't miss out!


Class critiques are very important and will be held at the beginning of class on the due date of each project. If your assignment is not complete for the critique your grade on that assignment will be lowered by one full letter for each class day it is late. You are required to attend critiques even if your work is not complete. Critiques are not for my benefit; instead, they are the best method to learn about artmaking - from a diversity of fellow artmakers.

Disability policy

Any student who feels he/she may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately, as soon as possible, to discuss your specific needs. Accommodations will be coordinated through the Office for Disability Services at 614-292-3307 in 150 Pomerene Hall.

Policy on student conduct

Students are expected to abide by the Ohio State University's Code of Student Conduct. Any violations will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.

Policy on animal use in your art

If you are conducting any research (artmaking is research) using animals, you are required to get approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee IACUC. "All testing, instructional and research proposals utilizing living vertebrate animals must be submitted for evaluation by the IACUC. Animal Use Protocol (AUP) submissions must also be submitted when utilizing dead vertebrate animals or animal parts if the animal was both sacrificed and procured solely and specifically for a research, teaching, or testing purpose."

Many projects we do will not be of concern, or require any paperwork, but are required to inform the office of our projects so they may make the decision as to whether further approvals will be needed. Our contact for this is Anthony Yonkura, who is happy to review your project concept by email or phone 614-292-4494 – This must be done before you begin the project.

Schedule overview


Introduction to BioArt


Thurs Sept. 22 - Introduction to course and each other. Overview of course concepts, related exhibitions and artists. Terminology and categorization: Stephen Wilson's links for artworks at the intersection of Biology: Microbiology, Bioengineering, Stem Cells; Biology: Animals & Plants; Ecology; Body & Medicine and A Profusion of Terms, by Sam Bower



TUE Sept. 27 - Discuss reading: Next Nature Intro, by Bruce Sterling. Present HyperNature assignment and related projects, including:

At 3:30 we will visit the related exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Thurs Sept. 29 - Student presentations of HyperNature proposal to the class and examples of their past work.


Environmental, sustainable and eco art strategies

TUE Oct. 4 - Field trip to the Olentangy River Wetlands Research Park. 352 W. Dodridge St. Columbus, OH Download Map of park. We will meet at the Heffner Wetland Reesearch and Eductaion building in the lobby. Dodridge road is closed where the bridge crosses the Olentangy river, so you'll need to go via Olentangy Drive - car detour map here And Biker/walker detour map here. Note that we will meet there at 3pm to give extra time.

Thurs Oct. 6 - Students present progress on their HyperNature projects to each other. Discuss reading: Ecovention - Section 2 - Activism to publicize ecological issues / monitoring ecological problems. Lecture on related artist projects, including:


Blurring boundaries: chimeras, clones, transgenics and the mediagenic

TUE Oct. 11 - Discuss reading: GFP Bunny, by Eduardo Kac. Additional, optional reading on the subject: "I Love my Glow Bunny" in and "RIP: Alba, the Glowing Bunny", in Lecture on related artists, including:

Thurs Oct. 13 - Critique HyperNature project.


Genetic art as a challenge to anthropocentrism

TUE Oct. 18 - Discuss/brainstorm about final artwork. Discuss reading: Anthropocentrism and Genetic Art, chapter 14 in Green Light, Toward an Art of Evolution, by George Gessert. Book is on reserve in the Fine Arts Library.
Thurs Oct. 20 - Students present project proposals to class.


Interspecies art: using, communicating and collaborating with animals

TUE Oct. 25 - Ken Rinaldo will do a guest lecture today about his interspecies artwork. Discuss reading about Joe Davis: Art as a Form of Life, in Scientific American.

Special event - Wed. Oct. 26, 7pm - Elliot Hundley artist talk at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Thurs Oct. 27 - Discuss reading: Creating, Culling and Caring, by Amy M. Youngs. Lecture/discussion about other artists working with animals, including:


Biophilia and Biomimicry

TUE Nov. 1 - Field trip to the Biological Sciences Greenhouse and Insectory. We will meet in class at our normal time and walk over there together.

Thurs Nov. 3 - Lecture/discussion on biophilia related work. Afterwards, we will have individual meetings to discuss your work and progress in this class.

Related artists:


DIY Biotech vs. funded technoscience: the power and politics of creating and manipulating living things

TUE Nov. 8 - Project progress presentations. Bring your work or documentation of it to show to class and ask for feedback from peers.

Special event - Tues Nov 8, 7pm - Alexis Rockman's artist talk at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Thurs Nov. 10 - Discuss Reading: Amateurity and Biotechnology, by Natalie Jeremijenko, download PDF from Readings section in Carmen content. We will discuss today. See these related artists/programs:

Related article in the Journal Nature - Culture: Artists in the Lab, by Martin Kemp (sign into OSU Library required)


Ethical issues in BioArt

TUE Nov. 15 - Visiting artist Doosung Yoo presents his work.

Special event - Wed. Nov 16, 7pm - Paula Haye's artist talk at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Thurs Nov 17 - No class meeting today, instructor is out of town. Reading: Artificial Life and the Lives of the Non-human, by Carol Gigliotti, Pg 17 - 22 in Antennae. Related artists to check out:


Finalize artwork for exhibition

TUE Nov. 22 - We will work in focus groups on finalizing the final projects, plus I will meet with you individually



Final works exhibited

TUE Nov. 29 - Final Critique! - Also, turn in your Field Research notes so I can grade and give back to you on Thursday. 
Wed Nov 29 - Art and Tech show setup day. Drop off artwork from 12:30 to 2:30. Installation is from 3:30 to 7pm. 
Thurs Dec. 1 - Come to the opening from 5 to 8pm to celebrate! 
Fri Dec. 2 - Clean up show from 4 to 5pm. Make sure to return equipment to classroom services by 5pm!
This schedule is subject to change - I'll keep you posted


Gessert, George, Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution, MIT Press, 2010.
Wilson, Stephen, Art+Science Now,
Thames & Hudson, 2010.
Mitchell, Robert, Bioart and the Vitality of Media,
University of Washington Press, 2010.
Da Costa, Beatriz and Philip, Kavita, Tactical Biopolitics, Mit Press 2008.
Kac, Eduardo, ed. Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, MIT Press, 2007.
Bulatov, Dmitry, Biomediale: Contemporary Society And Genomic Culture, Kaliningrad 2004.
Anker, Suzanne and Nelkin, Dorothy, The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004
Pollan, Michael, Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World. New York: Random House, 2001.
Spaid, Sue Ecovention, Current Art to Transform Ecologies, Contemporary Arts Center, June 2002.
Haraway, Donna J., When Species Meet, University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Birrell, Ross, ed. Art and the Animal Revolution,
Art & Research: a journal of ideas, contexts and methods. Volume 4. No. 1. Summer 2011
Catts, Oron, ed. The Aesthetics of Care? Nedlands, Australia: School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, 2002.
Catts, Oron, 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.
Steve Baker, The Postmodern Animal, Reaktion Books, 2000
Britton, Sheilah and Collins, Dan 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.
Chalmers, Catherine American Cockroach, Aperature 2005
Serpell, James, In the Company of Animals: a Study of Human-Animal Relationships, Cambridge University Press 1996.
Cronon, William, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996.
Haeckel, Ernst 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 and Resources

Next Nature
Antennae, The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. Online journal, 2007 - ongoing.
Is this Bioart?
Organism: making art with living systems

We Make Money Not Art
New Scientist Headlines
Stephen Wilson's links for artworks at the intersection of Biology: Microbiology, Bioengineering, Stem Cells; Biology: Animals & Plants; Ecology; Body & Medicine

Exhibitions and Conferences

Parco Arte Vivente "Park of Living Art" in Turin, Italy. An outdoor exhibition center, an interactive museum and a center of research interested in the dialogue between contemporary art, science, nature, biotechnologies and ecology.
Bio:Fiction Film Festival, at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria, May 2011
Visceral: the living art experiment, Science Gallery Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Feb. 2011
Presidio Habitats - art exhibition for animals in San Franscisco, CA. 2010 - 2011
Dead or Alive: Nature becomes Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY 2010
Liverpool, UK, 2008 and Luxembourg, Belgium 2009
Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age Moscow, Russia, 2008
Bios 4 Spain, 2006 Report in English
LifeScience, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria 1999
ART et BIOTECHNOLOGIES, Conference and book, Montreal, Canada 2005
Becoming Animal, Mass MOCA, Massachusetts 2005
BioFeel at the Biennale of Electronic Arts, Perth, Australia, 2002
Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution, New York, 2000
LifeScience, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria 1999

Apply to these upcoming shows / conferences

Machine Wilderness: Re-envisioning Art, Technology and Nature - Deadline November 15, 2011. Exhibition September 20, 2012 - January 6, 2013.
This is the Eighteenth International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2012 happening in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is a symposium and series of events exploring the discourse of global proportions on the subject of art, technology and nature.

CONFLUX: an exhibition celebrating the intersection of art + technology - The Pearl Conard Art Gallery at The Ohio State University [Mansfield Campus] seeks artists working at the intersection of art + technology for CONFLUX, a group exhibition to occur during Winter Quarter 2012. All genres of new media art are welcome, including robotics, multimedia, animation, bio art, digital imaging, locative media, rapid prototyping, digital video, net art, interactive media, and sound art.
Submissions Due 12.5.11.  See prospectus for details.

Do you know of other related opportunities? email me and I'll include here.

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