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May 14, 2024, 10:00 am12:30 pm

MIT Museum

Advanced Workshop in Artistic Practice and Transdisciplinary Research:
Topics in Biological Arts, Ethics, and Automation
4.314 U / 4.315 G
Course Final Presentation

This course, taught by Matej Vakula, examines artistic practice as a form of critical inquiry and knowledge production. It offers opportunities to develop art as a means for addressing the social, cultural, and ecological consequences of technology, building bridges between industry and culture, and challenging the boundaries between public and private and human and non-human. It provides instruction in evaluating models of experimentation, individual research, and collaboration with other disciplines in the arts, culture, science, and technology.

Bioart is an interdisciplinary field that explores the intersection of art and biology, bridging the gap between science, technology, and artistic expression. This undergraduate and graduate-level course introduces students to the theoretical foundations, latest topics, and practical bio-art techniques, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and ethical considerations in creating bio-inspired artworks. Through theoretical discussions, hands-on art studio work, and guest lectures from experts in the field, students will gain a deep understanding of the historical context, ethical implications, and cutting-edge applications of bioart.

Course Topics:

  • How Arts and Sciences Generate Knowledge: generation of scientific fact; sculpture in expanded field and artistic research, role of an artist in a laboratory
  • Textual reading of laboratory and biological life—Life as code debate, rendering life molecular, standardization, the mechanistic vision of life and the engineering paradigm, Foucault’s biopower.
  • Local vs. global perspectives in science, Haraway’s technobiocapital, maps and territories, classifications, hierarchies and ontologies, profiling, and the nature/nurture debate
  • Microbiome and metabolic art
  • Social sculpture in bioart: interspecies collaborations, nonhuman. Chimeras and kingdom crossings.
  • Automation in biology: cyborgs, biomedia, and generative designs for emergence
  • Haunted data and algorithmic bias: Ethics in automation of biology, machines, and AI
  • Simulations and realities in bioart: artwork, artifact, model, prototype, speculative prop; Intelligence debate: natural, simulated, or flawed? Machine Ethics.
  • Movements: DIY Bio, biohacking, biopunk, biomaking, feminist science studies, queering ecology and biology.

Learning Objectives/Pedagogy:

  • Understand the historical context and evolution of bioart as an art form.
  • Explore the ethical considerations and social implications of bioart.
  • Acquire practical skills and techniques for creating bio-inspired artworks.
  • Engage in critical discussions on the intersection of art and biology.
  • Collaborate with peers to develop innovative bioart projects.
  • Analyze and interpret bioartworks from various perspectives.
  • Develop a strong foundation for future research in bioart.

Students are evaluated through two main arches: Theory and Practice. The Practice arch has two main sections and a boot camp with a three—project outcome. Practice has a final project component and a final review during the last class. Students are evaluated at the end of each project component and final review.


  • Bootcamp
  • DNA Origami
  • Tissue printing organs on chips (Final Project)