Art and Genetics


A growing group of artists is addressing controversial developments in genetics and genomic research. Many of these artists represent social, political or ethical implications of this research in a broad variety of art forms.

Keywords: GFP bunny; DNA graphy; microvenus; supercode; silent code

Figure 1.

Microvenus symbol.

Figure 2.

Microvenus symbol, coded into a 35‐bit binary sequence and arranged into a 7‐bit by 5‐bit array that graphically maps into the shape of the icon.

Figure 3.

Delbrück code. Max Delbrück used these codon‐to‐alphabetical assignments to encode the sentence, I am the riddle of life know me and you will know yourself.

Figure 4.

DNA supercode.

Figure 5.

Amino acid and silent codes.



Andrews L (2000) Art – weird science. Chicago Magazine 92(6): 22–24.

Annick B (2002) Biological Art: Retrospective/Gallery. Art Press 276: 44–50. Paris, France.

Davis J (1996) Microvenus. Art Journal 55(1): 70–74.

Davis J (2000) Romance, supercodes and the Milky Way DNA. In: Stocker G and Schopf C (eds.) Ars Electronica 2000 Catalog: Next Sex, pp. 217–235. Vienna, Austria: Springer‐Verlag.

Gedrim RJ (1993) Edward Steichen's 1936 exhibition of delphinium blooms. History of Photography 17: 352–363.

Gessert G (1999) On exhibiting hybrids. Circa 90(Art and Technology Supplement): s08–s09.

Kac E (1999). Genesis. In: Stocker G and Schopf C (eds.) Ars Electronica 1999 – Life Science, pp. 310–313. Vienna/New York, NY: Springer.

Kac E (2001) Bio art: proteins, transgenics, and biobots/Biokunst: proteine, transgenik und bioboter. In: Stocker G and Schopf S (eds.) Ars Electronica 2001 Catalog: TAKEOVER – Who's Doing the Art of Tomorrow?/Wer macht die Kunst von morgen? pp. 118–124. Vienna, Austria: Springer‐Verlag.

Kemp M (2000) Science in culture. Nature 403: 364.

Nadis S (1995) Genetic art builds cryptic bridge between two cultures. Nature 378: 229.

Nadis S (2000) Science for arts sake. Nature 407: 668–670.

Queiroz IP (2002) A Biologia Ao Servico Da Arte. A Capital 19 May 2002. Lisbon, Portugal.

Travis J (2000) Genes on display: DNA becomes part of the artist's palette. Science News 158: 392–394.

Wayt Gibbs W (2001) Art as a form of life. Scientific American April 2001; pp. 37–39.

Youngs AM (2000) Fine art of creating life. Leonardo 33: 377–380.

Further Reading

Art and the Genetic Code (1996) Art Journal 55(1). [This whole issue was devoted to ‘Art and the Genetic Code’, representing an early example of an art journal addressing issues of art and genetics.]

Beadle GW and Beadle M (1966) The Language of Life: An Introduction to the Science of Genetics. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Burnham J (1968) Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century, 1st edn. New York, NY: George Braziller.

Fischer EP and Lipson C (1988) Thinking about Science: Max Delbrück and the Origins of Molecular Biology. New York, NY: Norton.

Pollan M (2001) The Botany of Desire: A Plant's‐eye View of the World. New York, NY: Random House.

Web Links

Ars Electronica. Ars Electronica Festivals 1999–2000 featuring the works of Kac (1999) and Davis (2000)

Burpee Seed Grow. Delphiniums Steichen Strain. Edward Steichen's mutagenized delphiniums are still sold as ‘Steichen Strain’ delphiniums

Eduardo Kac. A description of all of Eduardo Kac's artworks is included in this website

Gene(sis): Contempory Art Explores Human Genomics. Homepage of the exhibition Gene(sis): Contemporary Art explores Humans Genomics http://www.gene‐

Microvenus. Davis' original manuscript on the Microvenus project can be downloaded here

On Exhibiting Hybrids. George Gessert's webpage∼circa/c90/supple/8.html

Paradise Now. Homepage of the exhibition Paradise Now including links to information about the work of Dan Harvey, Heather Acroyd, Natalie Jeremijenko, others‐home.htm

Paradise Now Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey

The SmArt Gene or Are We Not Alone in the Aesthetic Universe? Wieczorek's critical essay on genetic art http://www.gene‐

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Davis, Joe, Boyd, Dana, O'Reilly, Hunter, and Wieczorek, Marek(Sep 2006) Art and Genetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005868]