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Announcement :: Environment
Biotech & Art Lecture Series
27 Oct 2004
Building a Critical Public for the Biotech Century
Eight short talks on bio-art, biotech, and bio-politics

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM

CAVS at MIT (N52-390) is located on the 3rd floor of 265 Massachusetts
Avenue, next to the MIT Museum.

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT and 16 Beaver Group invite
you to a dialogue that takes the artists' group Critical Art Ensemble and
its recent investigation by the FBI as a point of departure.

Short presentations on critical bio-art; the social and political role of
the museum; the figure of the amateur scientist; the Kurtz case and the
Patriot Act; the mission of the Council for Responsible Genetics; the
implications of life patents; a short history of political action around
biotechnology; and the Boston University Biodefense Lab controversy will
be followed by discussion moderated by members of 16 Beaver Group, a
collective of artists based in New York.

A resource book will be available at the event with writing by the
speakers and foundational documents in their fields. Most of this
material, as well as the full schedule, will also be online at by Tuesday Oct 26.


Last May, Steven Kurtz, an art professor at SUNY Buffalo, became the
subject of a federal bioterrorism investigation when equipment and
bacteria cultures (both of which were quickly found to be harmless) were
discovered in his home laboratory. The equipment was related to a series
of participatory art projects Kurtz has conducted with Critical Art
Ensemble (CAE) concerning the lack of democratic accountability that often
characterizes the realm of biotech research and development. Rather than
simply aestheticize science, CAE develops tools to promote critical
thinking about technology and its representation in everyday life. Their
recent project Free Range Grains included a mobile DNA extraction
laboratory for testing food products for the presence of genetically
modified organisms.

SPEAKERS (in alphabetical order):

Klare Allen, Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project Co-Director and
Community Organizer at Alternatives for Community and Environment and Gene
Benson, Staff Attorney at Alternatives for Community and Environment

Sujatha Byravan
Executive Director of the Council for Responsible Genetics

Beatriz da Costa
Long-term collaborator of Critical Art Ensemble

Jonathan King
Professor of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Eugene Thacker
Assistant Professor, School of Literature, Communication, & Culture,
Georgia Institute of Technology

Nato Thompson
Associate Curator at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and curator
of the exhibition "The Interventionists"

Charles Weiner
Professor Emeritus of History of Science, Program in Science, Technology
and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Faith Wilding
Multi-disciplinary artist with a focus on issues of women and technology,
with particular emphasis on biotechnology


Yates McKee, 16 Beaver Group
Rene Gabri, 16 Beaver Group


16 Beaver is the address of a space in New York's Financial District
initiated and run by artists to create and maintain an ongoing platform
for the presentation, production, and discussion of a variety of artistic,
cultural, economic, and/ or political projects. Since its inception, the
group has organized over 200 events ranging in format from lunches, walks,
film screenings, and artist presentations to readings, panels, and


What is the relation of art and politics? How should artists play a role in
society as activists, catalysts, and critics? As the Steve Kurtz case
we ask these perennial questions in relation to others: What are the
politics of biotechnology under global capitalism, especially at a time of
open-ended war? What are the private and public institutions that govern
development and control its interpretation and use? What should be the
of biological expertise and biological literacy in a democracy? Is freedom
speech relevant to contemporary science, and is freedom of research
relevant to
contemporary art? How do critical artists and socially engaged scientists
relate to one another, and to the multiple movements around the
world-including in Boston itself-fighting for social and environmental
justice? Can these multiple voices come together to form a critical public
sphere for the biotech century?


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CAVS is a center for art and exchange in the School of Architecture and
Planning at MIT. To join our mailing list, please write to
lrharris (at)

CAVS at MIT (N52-390) is located at 265 Massachusetts Avenue. Take the Red
Line to Central Square or #1 Bus to NECCO Factory stop. Enter on Front St,
next to the MIT Museum. Take the elevator to the 3rd Floor. For more info,
call 617.452.2484 or [ ]

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