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Bio Art  

Suzanne Anker

From Anatomical studies to landscape painting to the Biomorphism of Surrealism, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists. More recently, Bio Art became a term referring to intersecting domains that comprise advances in the biological sciences and their incorporation into the plastic arts. Of particular importance in works of Bio Art is to summon awareness of the ways in which the accelerating biomedical sciences alter social, ethical and cultural values in society.

Coming to the fore in the early 1990s Bio Art is neither media specific nor locally bounded. It is an international movement with practitioners in such regions as Europe, the US, Russia, Australia and the Americas. Several subgenres of Bio Art exist within this overarching term:

(i) Artists who employ the iconography of the 20th and 21st century sciences, including molecular and cellular genetics, transgenically altered living matter and reproductive technologies as well as the diverse fields of neuroscience. All traditional media such as painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing are employed to convey novel ways of representing life forms. Images of chromosomes, the double helix, magnetic resonance imaging body scans and neuroanatomy comprise this iconography. The molecular underpinnings of the living world have also become visible through high technological instrumentation when artists incorporate such pictorialisations as part of their practice. Representations span both genotypic variations and phenotypic ones. Artists include Suzanne Anker (...

Article

Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel

The final decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century witnessed an increasing propensity for artists to incorporate aspects of science in their own art. In many fields of scientific research—including the cloning of mammals, the genetic modification of crops, the creation of bioengineered organs and tissues, advances in nanotechnology and robotics, experimental research in how the human mind works and the study of artificial intelligence—the frontiers of knowledge pushed outward at an accelerated pace. In the spirit of creative inquiry, or in order to critique the goals and outcomes of scientific experimentation and application, artists regularly borrowed subjects, tools and approaches from science as a means to the production of art ( see fig. ).

In documenting and assessing the achievements of visual artists engaged with science, there was no broad consensus on the categorisation of artists’ work across the full range of activities, methods, motivations and use of materials. Assessments of artistic practice focused on artists’ work categorised by the traditional fields of science (e.g. artists who explore biology, artists who explore physical sciences). Other analyses of artistic practice focused on categories of art media (e.g. artists who use traditional means such as carving and casting to represent scientific discoveries, artists who explore and employ biological materials and scientific instruments)....