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This is a rather broad term that can refer to any kind of art that has been inspired by biological mechanisms or which makes use of biological concepts.

These include pictorial art based on aspects of nature or medical illustrations, software that turns the genetic code into luminous, scientifically accurate pictures, and robotic sculptures operated by fish. The creation by Eduardo Kac and others of transgenic bioartistic plants and animals — using a jellyfish gene that makes them glow in the dark — has provoked controversy because it raises ethical issues of a type that artists are unused to facing.

The field has been in the news recently through the prosecution of Steven Kurtz, who used a biological laboratory at his home to make artistic works based on bacteria and DNA; however, he denies his work has any connection with the species-modification end of the bioart spectrum, which one writer has called “Frankensteinian aberrations”.

As biotechnology advances and bioart grows — several American universities are establishing centers for the art — it will undoubtedly become more difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

the International Herald Tribune, 4 Jul. 2005

Ionat Zurr, the new course’s academic co-ordinator, says other higher education institutions have theoretical courses on “bioart”, but the UWA [University of Western Australia] is believed to be the first to offer hands-on laboratory work in the field. The university’s ethics committees will have to approve student’s projects, as they will involve the manipulation of biological life to create “living artworks”.

Australasian Business Intelligence, 27 Sep. 2005

Page created 12 Nov. 2005

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 12 November 2005.