Art and Biotech: Bay Area Networks, 1965-1985


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Art History & Criticism


This project considers artists who examined the logic and ethics of biotech and the ability to engineer life using new media, including video, audio, and digital computing. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the San Francisco Bay Area was a central node in the development of biotech and its industry and a focal point of artistic innovation. Through a series of four case studies, this research considers Bay Area artists who, decades before the emergence of bioart, reflected and critiqued changing understandings of humanity, society, and the environment in light of the development of biotech and its industry. The artists Richard Lowenberg, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sonya Rapoport, and Judy Malloy understood biotech’s implications differently based on their political commitments and choice of artistic media. What they shared was a desire to explore the logic of biotech through art and to demonstrate biotech’s wide-ranging social impact.