Bioart-Biodesign-DIY:Reframing life in current artistic practices and design app

Ingeborg Reichle
Fine Arts and Media Art, Media Theory
2016W, Proseminar (PS), 2.0 semester hours, course number S01555


This subject will introduce students to selected approaches in Bioart and Biodesign as well as to the do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio) practices employed. A range of current projects will be addressed that create art using living matter and a focus will be on new cross-disciplinary approaches in design, which seek to implement biological principles in the design process and even try to integrate living organisms as essential components, thereby initiating collaboration between designers and biologists. Biodesign aspires to go beyond the biology-inspired approach of bionics and biomimicry, aiming at transforming and applying structures, procedures, and developmental principles of biological systems to technology and technical applications. Biodesign not only wants to improve industrial and mechanical systems through introducing concepts and shapes based on nature, it also wants to replace these systems with biological processes. We will also turn our attention towards DIYbio practices, a growing community in which individuals and small organizations study biology with a focus on molecular biology. DIYbio practices contribute to open source policies in the sciences, with the aim of making the tools, protocols, and resources necessary for doing science in this field available to everyone who is interested in engaging, for example, in biological engineering or tissue engineering including non-professionals. The course will also examine a number of Bioart projects to develop a critical understanding of the role of art in the twenty-first century.


Examination Modalities

You have to attend the course each week, unless you have a very good reason for your absence (e.g. illness or other difficulties). To participate effectively in class required readings are expected and a 20-30 min. presentation. Each student is also required to write a 12-15 page research essay about a given topic or about your own topic after discussing the topic with the lecturer. It is important for seminar participants to attend the introductory session on October 4, 2016. The topics for the seminar talks will be assigned and information provided about the subjects and issues that will be discussed with over the course of the term. Course language is English.


Reading list:

Weeks 1 and 2: Introduction

Jenny Boulboulle (2012). ‘In Touch With Life. Investigating epistemic practices in the life sciences from a hands-on perspective’ in Bio Art, Descartes as a hands-on practitioner, molecular genetics laboratories; Diss, University of Maastricht. [Chapter: „Introduction“, p. 1-30]


William Myers (2015). Bio Art: Altered Realities, London: Thames & Hudson. . [Chapter: „Bio Art and the Gnawing Invisible“, p. 8-17]


Ingeborg Reichle (2009). Art in the Age of Technoscience: Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art, New York: Springer. [Chapters: „Art in the Age of Technoscience: Transgressing the Boundaries“ and „The Dawning of the Biotech Century“, p. 1-14 and p. 15-32]


Week 3: Biotechnology and the Reframing of Life: Genes and Capital


Robert Mitchell, Catherine Waldby (2006). Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism, Durham: Duke University Press.


Robert Pollin (2008). Greening the Global Economy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Week 4: Mapping genes, making society


Eugene Thacker (2005). The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Chapter: „A political economy of the genomic body“, p. 91-130]


Robert H. Carlson (2011). Biology Is Technology: The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Week 5: Bioart (1980-2000): Art Emerging from the Laboratory


Karl Gerbel, Peter Weibel (1993). Genetic Art – Artificial Life, Ars Electronica 93, Vienna: PVS Verleger. [Chapter: „Introduction“ by Karl Gerbel, Katharina Gsöllpointner and Peter Weibel]


Robert E. Mitchell (2010). Bioart and the Vitality of Media, Seattle et al.: University of Washington Press.


Peter Weibel (1980). Biotechnologie und Kunst. In: M. E. A. Schmutzer (ed.): Technik und Gesellschaft, Symposion der technischen Universität Wien in Lech am Arlberg (24.-30.8.1980), Schriftenreihe der Technischen Universität Wien, Vol. 19, Vienna 1981, pp. 158–169.


Week 6: Bioart (2000-2015): The Bioart Kitchen: Genetically Modified Food


Lindsay Kelley (2016). Bioart Kitchen: Art, Feminism and Technoscience, London: IB Tauris. [Chapter: „Introduction: What is Food?“, p. 1-13]


Jacob Metcalf (2013). Meet Shmeat: Food System Ethics, Biotechnology and Re-Worlding Technoscience. In: Parallax, 19:1, pp. 74-87.


Allison Carruth (2013). Culturing Food: Bioart and In Vitro Meat. In: Parallax 19:1, pp. 88-100.


Week 7: Guest lecture by Herwig Turk, University of Applied Arts Vienna


Ingeborg Reichle (2010). Gazing Hands and Blind Spots: Strategies of Visual Transgression in Contemporary Art. In: Ideas in History. Nordic Society for the History of Ideas, Vol. 5, 2010/11, ed. by Max Liljefors and Victoria Höög, pp. 27-51.



Week 8: BioArt & Personal Genomics


Maria Antonia Gonzalez Valerio (2012). BioArt on the Verge of Aesthetic Ontology. In: ANNALES Ser. hist. sociol. 22, pp. 327-334.


Ingeborg Reichle (2016). The Infinity Engine. In: Peter Weibel (ed.): Lynn Hershman Leeson. Civic Radar, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, pp. 334-339.


Beatriz da Costa, Kavita Philip (2008). Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism and Technoscience, Cambridge, MA. et al.: MIT Press. [Chapter: Beatriz da Costa „Reaching the Limit: When Art Becomes Science“, p. 365-385]


Week 9: Guest lecture by Günter Seyfried, pavillon_35


Günter Seyfried, Lei Pei, Markus Schmidt (2014). European do-it-yourself (DIY) biology: Beyond the hope, hype and horror. In: Bioessays, vol. 36, pp. 548-551.


Week 10: New Innovation Regimes: DIYbio


Alessandro Delfanti (2013). Biohackers: The Politics of Open Science. London: Pluto Press. [Chapter: „Cracking Codes, Remixing Cultures“, p. 1-24]


Denisa Kera (2014). Innovation regimes based on collaborative and global tinkering: Synthetic biology and nanotechnology in the hackerspaces. In: Technology in Society 37, pp. 28–37.


Seasonal Break: December 19, 2016 – January 8, 2017


Week 11: Art from Synthetic Biology


Howard Boland (2013). Art from Synthetic Biology; Phil. Diss, University of Westminster. [Chapters 1 and 2: „Art from synthetic biology“ pp. 22-27 and „Bio art: roots, literature and debates“, pp. 28-55]


Kristin Hagen, Margret Engelhard, Georg Toepfer (2016). Ambivalences of Creating Life: Societal and Philosophical Dimensions of Synthetic Biology. Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment, vol. 45, Cham: Springer International Publishing. [Chapters: Walburg Steurer: “Some Kind of Genetic Engineering... Only One Step Further”— Public Perceptions of Synthetic Biology in Austria“, pp. 115-140 and Johannes Steizinger: „Engineers of Life? A Critical Examination of the Concept of Life in the Debate on Synthetic Biology“, pp. 275-292]


Week 12: Synthetic Aesthetics: Synthetic Biology in Art & Design


Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Jane Calvert, Pablo Schyfter, Alistair Elfick & Drew Endy (2014). Synthetic Aesthetics. Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Chapter: Alistair Elfick & Drew Endy „Synthetic Biology: What It Is and Why It Matters“, p. 3–25]


William Myers (2015). Biodesign: Nature, Science, Creativity, The Museum of Modern Art, London: Thames & Hudson. [Chapter: „Beyond Biomimicry“, p. 10-17]


Week 13: Speculative Design - Speculative Biology


Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby (2014). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Ingeborg Reichle (2014). Speculative Biology in the Practices of BioArt. In: Artlink. Contemporary art of Australia and the Asia-Pacific, vol. 34, no. 3, 2014, special issue, Bio Art: Life in the Antropocene, pp. 30-34.


Week 14: Biological futures


Joachim Boldt (2013). Life as a Technological Product. Philosophical and Ethical Aspects of Synthetic Biology. In: Biological Theory 8, 4, pp. 391–409.


Freeman Dyson (2007). Our Biotech Future. In: The New York Review of Books 54 (12 – July 19).


Andrew Pollack (2016). Scientists Talk Privately About Creating a Synthetic Human Genome. In: The New York Times, 13. Mai 2016.


Robert Zwijnenberg (2014). Biotechnology, Human Dignity and the Importance of Art. In: Rethinking “Nature”. Ripensare la “natura”, vol. 1, Burning Issues/Questioni aperte, ed. by Flavia Monceri et al., Teoria (Pisa), Edizioni ETS, pp. 131-148.


Key Words

environmental art, architecture, interactive art, interventionist art, design, media art, electronic media


04 October 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
11 October 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
18 October 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
25 October 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
01 November 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
08 November 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
15 November 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
22 November 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
29 November 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
06 December 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
13 December 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
20 December 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
27 December 2016, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
03 January 2017, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
10 January 2017, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
17 January 2017, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
24 January 2017, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14
31 January 2017, 16:15–18:00 Seminar Room 14

Course Enrolment

Until 11 October 2016, 12:00
via email:

co-registration: possible (3.0 ECTS)

Art Education: subject kkp (Bachelor): Wissenschaftliche Praxis: FOR: Lehrveranstaltungen nach Wahl aus Wissenschaftliche Praxis (3.0 ECTS)

Art Education: subject tex (Bachelor): Wissenschaftliche Praxis: FOR: Lehrveranstaltungen nach Wahl aus Wissenschaftliche Praxis (3.0 ECTS)

Art Education: subject dae (Bachelor): Wissenschaftliche Praxis: FOR: Lehrveranstaltungen nach Wahl aus Wissenschaftliche Praxis (3.0 ECTS)

TransArts - Transdisciplinary Arts (Bachelor): Theoretical foundations: Theoretical foundations (3.0 ECTS)

Individual courses: possible (3.0 ECTS)