(RE)embodying Biotechnology

Shawn Bailey, Jennifer Willet, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr - Teratological Prototypes: ISEA (International Society for Electronic Arts) Zero One, San Jose, 2006

ABSTRACT

(RE)embodying Biotechnology:
Towards the Democratization of Biotechnology Through Embodied Art Practices.
Jennifer Willet, Ph.D. Dissertation
Concordia University, September 2009

Contemporary discourse surrounding biotechnology places great emphasis on digital metaphors in describing the biological sciences.  In these discourses it is as if mankind’s ‘cumulative’ technology – computation – performs the ultimate science, the dominion of man over nature through the application of numeric code to living organism.  This general application of computational models to instances of biotechnology provides a sterilizing affect, removing all that is wet, bloody, unruly, and animal, from mass imaginations of the biotech future.  As I argue this vision of biotechnology (as it is presented to non-specialists) may serve to nullify public engagement in the complex ethical dilemmas that arise from engaging in technologies of the body.

(RE)embodying Biotechnology focuses on reuniting notions of embodiment with the language, analysis, practice, and representation of contemporary biotechnologies.  With a social and political mandate that advocates informed public discourse, (RE)embodying Biotechnology complicates, rather than simplify our understanding of the biotech field.  Methodologically, I propose artistic means for non-specialists to engage in biotechnology as an embodied practice through the mobilization of a ‘critical participatory methodology’. (RE)embodying Biotechnology is a research / creation thesis; comprised of the documentation of a body of work and a text that reflects on how artistic engagement in the biotechnological field may allow for non-specialists to engage critically with evolving biotechnologies.