Design Frontiers In Biology and Materiality
Instructor: Amanda Parkes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon 2:30pm to 5:25pm in 406
Biological organisms and systems are essentially living machines. Digital technologies allow us to create a control structure with computational predictability and precision. What happens, however, when designers begin to incorporate the self-determined internal control structure of a biological system as part of a design strategy? This course offers a new approach to materiality, positing that all matter is dynamic but exists within a continuum of control ranging from passively temporal (wood, water) to electronically active (photovoltaics, thermochromics) to biologically alive (plants, tissue). This course presents alternative design strategies for creating computational interfacing with living matter and state change of natural materials. Students are introduced to the world of the bio lab from a designer’s perspective, both conceptually and practically. We examine the state-of-the-art in artistic experimentation with biological systems such as the genetic manipulation projects of Eduardo Kac, or the carbon nanotubes grown into architectural structures of Ryan Wartena. We will also examine more DIY approaches to living systems integration and interactivity with biological systems. Students use a hands-on approach in their design process, with biological sensing as input and indicators or material state change as an alternative method of information display, for example. This course is designed to further our computational relationship with the natural world pushing forward ideas in sustainability, interactivity, energy production and the emerging relationship between the designer/artist and the bio lab, approaching biology as an open frontier for digital design.
The course will be a mixture of design work- including physical building, electronics and bio experimentation, along with lectures, readings, discussion and critique. Students will be introduced to a number of fabrication techniques, bio design processes and new materials, and expected to produce physical prototypes for assignments. Through a combination of producing objects and engaging in critical reflection, students will be encouraged to develop a design practice which innovates technically in process and materials as well as situates their work in the context of contemporary culture and technology. Together with physical practice, students will document and share their projects through blogging and on-line social networks.
Class attendance, participation & reading discussion 15%
Blogging & Documentation 15%
Weekly Assignments & Design Sketches 20%
Midterm Project 20%
Final Project 30%
January 25 Class 1 : Introduction
overview of the course
the biological material continuum & control structures
phenomenology as an approach to interface and interaction
Assignment: Recreate a favorite childhood science fair project as a personal statement.
NO baking soda volcanoes.
February 1 Class 2: Phenomenology & Transformation
Discussion: Science Project Assignment
Guest Speaker: Ari Meisel, LEED, expert in green building materials
Assignment: Design a phenomenological approach to a computational interaction, potentially related to your recreated science fair project, bring idea sketches
February 8 Class 3 Smart Materials and Interaction
observation & temporality: slow media
smart materials, thermochromics, nitinol
Assignment: Construct a computational interaction, potentially related to your recreated science fair project
February 15: NYU Holiday
February 22 Class 4 : The Bio Body
Discussion of phenomenological interaction projects & materiality reading.\\
Discussion: Phenomenology Readings
Lecture: The Bio Body
Readings: Jans Hauser,
Assignment: Midterm Projects
March 1: Class 5: Energy - alternatives & production methods
biofuels & biobatteries
Guest Speaker: Eitan Zeira, vice president, Konarka Technologies
Assignment: Printed Solar panel assemblage
March 8 Class 6: Bio Art
Presentations: Flexible solar designs
Assignmnent: Do a 5 minute presentation on your chosen bioartist.
Continue work on your midterm project
March 15: Spring Break
March 22 Class 7: De-technologizing through biology
environmental sensing methods
slower, bigger, cheaper
Guest Speaker: Rich Fletcher
Presentations: Bio Artists
March 29 Class 8: Synthetic Biology I
Genomes & bio building blocks
Critique of Midterm Projects
Assignment: Prepare a final project proposal
April 5 Class 9: Synthetic Biology II
Systems and Infrastructures: Utopias, Dystopias, and urban interventions
Discussion: Final Project Proposals
Assignment: Final Projects
April 12 Class 10: Bioethics, Intellectual Property, Open Source Biology
Assignment: Final Projects
April 19 Class 11: Final Project Discussion + individual progress crits
(needs to be rescheduled due to travel conflict)
Assignments: Final Projects
April 26 Class 12: Final Project Presentations & Critique
References & Resources
Exploratorium Digital Library
Wall Street Journal on "biohacking"
AP on DIYbio
Seed Magazine: The Biohacking Hobbyist
New Yorker: A Life of Its Own
VivoArts School for Transgenic Aesthetics
Nature Biotechnology: From synthetic biology to biohacking: are we prepared?
The New Atlantis: The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology
International Association of Synthetic Biology
FBI Biosecurity Conference
Catts, Oron (2002) Ed. The Aesthetics of Care, pub. SymbioticA, U.W.A.ISBN 1 74052 080 7. 1st Edition 2002, 2nd edition 2004.
Tactical Biopolitics Art, Activism, and Technoscience, edited by Beatriz da Costa and Kavita Philip, The MIT Press, 2008.
Art in the Biotech Era, edited by Melentie Pandilovski 2006
Kac, Eduardo. Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond (Cambridge: MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2007).
Jens Hauser (ed.). sk-interfaces. Exploding borders - creating membranes in art, technology and society. Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press 2008
Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr Semi-Livings as Agents of Irony in Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity' Palgrave/Macmillan publication, edited by Sue Broadhurst. 2005
Art et Biotechnologies, edited by Louise Poissant and Ernestine Daubner, Presses de l’Universite du Quebec 2005
BioMediale: Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture book edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. Published by The National Centre for Contemporary Arts (Kaliningrad Branch, Russia) 2004.
Oron Catts The Art of the Semi-Living in Live: Art and Performance, Tate Publishing 2004
L’art Biotech, Edited by Jens Hauser Le lieu unique France, 2003