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Symposium – Art’s Work the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures

October 18, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Symposium – Art’s Work the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures

Date: Friday, October 18, 2019
Location: Gregg Museum of Art & Design 8:30-12:00 pm
D.H. Hill Library Auditorium 2:00-5:30 pm (Register)

The Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center, NC State University Libraries, and Gregg Museum of Art & Design will host a full-day symposium to discuss the Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology exhibition. The symposium will bring together artists, humanists, and social/natural scientists, using the exhibition as a departure point for conversations about the future of biotechnology and genetics.

The exhibition provokes questions about who has the standing to comment on or even create our genetic futures. It shows how artists and designers can contribute materially, rhetorically, and conceptually to biotechnology’s development. The selected works question the all-too-common assumption that scientists and engineers hold the power to create new futures that will come to pass without the input of other people. By highlighting artists’ contributions in these areas and bringing the public into the conversation as a partner rather than a recipient of technical knowledge, visitors will be encouraged to consider the contributions artists and scientists are making toward shaping our genetic futures, the effects these innovations and ideas will have on their own lives, and their own roles in this process.

The symposium places art at the center of discussions about the future of biotechnology by presenting works in which artists appropriate tools and techniques of modern biotechnology that have until recently been the exclusive purview of scientists. The event will use the exhibition as a departure point for conversations about the future of biotechnology and genetics. The morning session will be held at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design from 8:30-12:00 pm and continue at the NC State’s D.H. Hill Library Auditorium in the afternoon beginning at 2:00 pm. The morning session will consist of responses from scientists, humanities scholars, artists, and members of the public to specific artworks in the show.

Register for afternoon sessions

In the afternoon, three panels of artists will convene to discuss:

2—3 pm: Biotechnology as Culture

Moderator: Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English, Duke University
Artist Panel: Joe Davis, Jennifer Willet, Ciara Redmond, Kirsten Stolle, Maria McKinney, and Rich Pell

panel description
What is the relationship between luck and genetics? Between biotechnology and phenotypic outcomes? Between individual choices and corporate coercion? And in what ways can artists make use of the culture to make comments on biotechnology, genetics, and science more broadly? Joe Davis and Ciara Remond have both approached the concept of luck in their work, while Jennifer Willet, Rich Pell, Maria McKinney, and Kirsten Stolle have different takes on ways of using identifiable cultural markers to draw audiences into conversations about biotechnology. This panel will explore how biotechnology is culture and the ways that culture can be used to leverage new possibilities for thinking about genetic futures.

3—4 pm: Genetic Arts Intervening in the Anthropocene: Climate, Geoengineering, and Ecosystems

Moderator: Jason Delborne, Professor of Science, Technology, & Society, NC State
Artist Panel: Aaron Ellison, David Buckley Borden, Jon Davis, Joel Ong, Erin Kirchner, and Rachel Rusk

panel description
Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology features a number of works which investigate the way that changes on our planet are related to genetic change or biotechnological affordances. In this panel, the creators of the Novel Ecosystem Generator, Kerasynth, Terra et Venti, and the animations behind Teosinte to Tomorrow will introduce how their work grapples with global environmental change, discuss why art and design are great mediums for addressing the anthropocene, and what the future holds for art about these issues.

4—5 pm: Art and Identities: From Surveillance and Privacy to Collective Identities and Personal Choices

Moderator: Patsy Sibley, Professor of Women’s Studies, NC State
Artist Panel: Charlotte Jarvis, Paul Vanouse, Adam Zaretsky, and Emeka Ikebude

panel description
Ideas about identity have swirled around developments in human genomic science since its inception. Surveillance and privacy have been investigated throughout the first generation of bioart, including cutting edge work by Paul Vanouse and Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Vanouse’s more recent work, like the America Project, exhibited in this show grapples with collective identity. Emeka Ikebude’s “Fragments” works with the opposition between individual genetic codes and microbiomes which are also largely shared with other people. Issues of diversity have been present in the work of the scientists of the human genome project and the artistic critiques of this work that followed. In other work, Adam Zaretsky asks about human genetic possibilities for the future and he will discuss how his botanical work in Errorairum relates to those inquiries about human futures. Charlotte Jarvis’ In Posse brings attention to ideas about gender and feminism. This panel will discuss the relationships art draws out between science and identities.

The symposium will conclude with an open conversation on how we develop richer interfaces between artists and scientists in determining our genetic futures.

For more on the artworks go to:


October 18, 2019
2:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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Erdahl-Cloyd 2304 Auditorium, D.H. Hill Library
2 W Broughton Dr
Raleigh, NC 27695 United States
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