Contemporary Art and Biotechnology

Writing 1, Spring 2005 UCSC

Location: Oakes 102

Meetings: MWF 9:30-10:40

Course description:

This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore intersections between contemporary art and biotechnology, stressing that using language well is important to any engagement with visual culture. Students will keep journals and also write more formal essays. Why are so many artists choosing to work with or comment on biotechnology? How are biotechnology exhibitions generating discourse and controversy about issues as diverse as DNA sequencing, transgenic organisms, and animal rights? How do we write about art, as critics, historians, and observers? We will look at a different artist each week and will read the artist's writing about their own work, critical reviews, and more theoretical pieces about art processes and authorship. Among the artists we will consider are Patricia Piccinini, the Critical Art Ensemble, Eduardo Kac, and Lynn Randolph. Biology majors are most welcome.


  1. Rules for Writers, Fifth Edition by Diana Hacker, available at Baytree Bookstore on campus
  2. Course Packet, available at Slug Books:

Instructor: Lindsay Kelley,

Office hours: by appointment and Wednesdays 11-1 Oakes 318

Box: Oakes College opposite the History of Consciousness office (across the hall from room 218)


Description                                               Length                  Due Date

history with writing                                   3 pages                Friday, 4 / 1

draft of essay 1                                        2-3 pages             Friday, 4 / 8

essay 1                                                    4-5 pages             Friday, 4 / 15

in class essay 1: 30 minutes                      1/2 blue book       Wednesday, 4 / 20

draft of essay 2                                        3-5 pages             Friday, 4 / 22

essay 2                                                    4-5 pages             Friday, 4 / 29

in class essay 2: 30 minutes                      1/2 blue book       Wednesday, 5 / 18

Final paper assignment sequence:

topic, on paper or via e-mail                      1-2 paragraphs     Friday, 5/6

prospectus for final paper/bibliography       3-5 pages             Friday, 5 / 13

draft of final paper                                    5-7 pages             Monday, 5 / 23

final paper                                                8-10 pages           Friday, 6 / 3


Formatting for assignments:

Format your assignments per the following specifications:

Font: Times New Roman 12 point

Margins: 1 inch (double check!)

Spacing: double

Citations: MLA style (consult Hacker text)

Header: include last name and page number in the upper right hand corner of each page

Front page heading: Include first and last name, the course name, my name, and the date


Responsibilities to the course:

Š       Attendance is mandatory. Although it is possible to miss up to 3 class meetings and still pass the class, this strategy is not recommended. I encourage you to attend every class meeting, and save any excused absences for genuine emergencies. The most important parts of this class happen during our class meetings, so it is imperative that you attend class. I will take attendance until I know your names and faces, and then I will check off absences without calling your name. If you are more than ten minutes late three times, that counts as an absence. More than three absences is grounds for immediate dismissal from the class and a "no-pass" grade.

Š       You will keep a journal for this class. You will write in your journal both in and outside of class. For every reading assigned (including Hacker), write one single sided page about each reading. Your journal need not be a bound book, in fact it shouldn't be. Just use lined sheets of 8 x 10 paper, and be prepared to turn them in periodically. I cannot overemphasize how valuable journals are. They help you improve as a writer because you need not feel pressured or observed while writing in your journal, and they help you organize your research. Put anything you want to in your journal, including drawings or pictures from magazines or photographs--just make sure the content of your journal is content that you are willing to bring into a classroom every day.

Š       All work must be completed and turned in to me in order to receive credit for the course. If one assignment or one iteration (draft, prospectus, bibliography) of an assignment is not turned in, you will not pass the course. The due dates on the schedule below are very important. Due dates for drafts are extremely important; without a draft, you will not be able to revise your work for your final paper. If you need one or two extra days to put finishing touches on your final drafts, and you have spoken to me ahead of time, that will most likely be fine with me. Keep in mind that the schedule is designed to help you, and if you do not keep to this schedule, you will fall behind. I do not give incompletes unless arrangements for completing the work are made well in advance of the end of the quarter. I will not initiate such arrangements.

Š       We will meet in one-on-one conferences twice during the quarter. These meetings are important for both of us; often I will have a draft to return to you at the meeting. These meetings will happen outside of class, and it is imperative that you attend the meeting and be on time.

Things you will need for this class: a journal, a good English language dictionary, the texts listed above (packet, Hacker), a blue book for in class essays, and $$ for copying (you will be bringing multiple copies of your drafts to class to distribute in your writing group). You must have access to a computer and a printer for this class. I will also be using e-mail to communicate with you, so please activate your cats account if you have not already done so.


Week 1       Body Worlds

Read: (some texts in CP, some distributed in class)

"Biological Transformations in Contemporary Art" by Soke Dinkla

"Body Worlds" from Margaret Cho's weblog

Excerpts from Body Worlds exhibition catalog (distributed in class)

March 28: Introduction & Enrollment

March 31: Screening: Body Worlds DVD special guest: Natalie Loveless

April 1: DUE: Writer's Histories (be prepared to share your work with others in the class, and bring an extra copy) special guest: Eva S. Hayward


Week 2       Eduardo Kac


Hacker, Argument, 343-366
Eduardo Kac, excerpts from It's Not Easy Being Green

Eduardo Kac, "GFP Bunny" (Leonardo)
KD Thornton, "The Aesthetics of Cruelty vs. the Aesthetics of Empathy" (SymbioticA)
Stuart Bent, "A complicated balancing act? How can we asses the use of animals in art and science?" (SymbioticA)

"Mice, Medicine, and Genetics" from Making Mice (Read now in anticipation of week 3)

April 4: Meet at McHenry Library, 2nd floor for library info session

April 6: Introduction to citing sources

April 8: DUE: Draft of Essay 1


Week 3       Oncomouse 1: Bryan Crockett, Catherine Chalmers


Hacker, Writing MLA Papers, 400-455 (first half)

"World's Scientists Admit They Just Don't Like Mice" from the Onion

Bryan Crockett from Paradise Now catalog

Lawrence Osborne, "Fuzzy Little Test Tubes"

Interview with Catherine Chalmers

"Fuzzy Little Test Tubes" by Lawrence Osborne

"Commodification: Genes for Sale" from The Molecular Gaze by Suzanne Anker

April 11: Journal pages due

April 13: Thesis statements

April 15: DUE: Essay 1


Week 4       Oncomouse 2: Lynn Randolph and Donna Haraway



Hacker, MLA continued (second half)

"Blurring Boundaries: Chimeras and Transgenics" from The Molecular Gaze by Suzanne Anker

Donna Haraway, "Living Images: Conversations with Lynn Randolph"

"Animals and the New Biology: Oncomouse and Beyond" from Making Mice

April 18: Thesis statements II

April 20: In Class Essay 1

April 22: DUE: Draft of Essay 2


Week 5       Critical Art Ensemble 1: History of CAE & Steve Kurtz


Hacker, Building effective paragraphs, 39-60

CAE timeline from TDR

Molecular Invasion introduction

"The Promissary Rhetoric of Biotechnology in the Public Sphere" from Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media"

"Transgenic Production and Cultural Resistance: A Seven-Point Plan" from Molecular Invasion

April 25: Individual conferences this week—bring your essay 2 drafts!

April 27: Final paper topic worksheet

April 29: DUE: Essay 2


Week 6       Critical Art Ensemble 2: Biotech performances


Hacker, Research Guide, 369-400 (first half)

"Transgenic Accidents," "Fuzzy Biological Sabotage," and "Betty Crocker 3000 Presents Food for a Hungry World" from Molecular Invasion

May 2: Journal pages due

May 4: Audience: Who are you addressing?

May 6: Paper Topic Due


Week 7       Patricia Piccinini



Hacker, Research Guide continued (second half)

Dave Powell, "Chimera Contemporary: The Enduring Art of the Composite Beast" (Leonardo)

"Patricia Piccinini: Ethical Aesthetics" by Jacqueline Millner

"Fast Forward: Accelerated Evolution" by Rachel Kent

"Artist Statement" and "Still Life with Stem Cells" by Patricia Piccinini

May 9: Researching your paper

May 11: More on research and thesis statements

May 13: DUE: Prospectus for Final Paper


Week 8       Damien Hirst


Tracey Emin, "In and Out of Love with Damien Hirst"

"A Shark in the Mind of One Contemplating Nature"

Excerpts from Blimey!

May 16: How to write a great exam essay

May 18: In Class Essay 2

May 20: More on citations and bibliographies


Week 9       Natalie Jeremijenko


Natalie Jeremijenko on KQED's "Spark"


John Travis, "Genes on Display: DNA becomes part of the artist's palette"

Steven Henry Madoff, "Out of the Ether, a New Continent of Art Comes Into View"

"Natalie Jeremijenko" from Paradise Now catalog

World Changing Interview

May 23: DUE: Draft of Final Paper

May 25: Journal pages due

May 27: Individual conferences this week, also discuss drafts


Week 10      Tissue Culture & Art Project


Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts, "An Emergence of the Semi-Living" (SymbioticA)

Werner Bartens, "Those Who Want to Clone Must Start Small"

May 30: Holiday NO CLASS

June 1: End of course review

June 3: LAST DAY! DUE: Final Paper & Portfolio (including journal)


Exam Period: Our exam time is Tuesday June 7, 12:00-3:00 pm. There is no final exam for this class. I will use the exam time to return your portfolios; you can find me in my office in Oakes between 12:00-2:00. There is a slight chance I will be in McHenry library instead. Stay tuned.

Appenidx: Additional Artists

All of the following artists are worth researching further, though I can't promise that there will be sufficient written and visual material to justify a research project. Start your research early!


Aziz and Cucher


gene discovery – body_manufacture™ Sylvia Kranawetvogl, Erik Hable, James Cecil, Peta Clancy


Gunther von Hagens, Body Worlds


Julia Reodica, SF-based science museum installations (articles available from SymbioticA, "Aesthetics of Care?", downloadable here: In addition to Reodica's papers, several other artists have papers in this file, so it's worth checking out.


Joe Davis


Suzanne Anker


Olly and Suzi


SciCult website: