Appel à communication : « Human Biomatter in Art » (Londres, 7-8 juillet 2016)

fisher-tearsofchange1Human Biomatter in Art (London, 7-8 Jul 16)
University College London Institute of Advanced Studies, July 7 – 08, 2016
Deadline: Mar 1, 2016
Bodily Matters: Human Biomatter in Art. Materials / Aesthetics / Ethics
From Andy Warhol’s oxidation paintings, made using urine, Andrew Krasnow’s two and three-dimensional artworks utilising human skin, Bill Fink’s meticulously constructed images created with human hair to Marc
Quinn’s blood-sculpture series Self  and Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photographic series Topography of Tears,  the human body has been used not  merely as the subject of art works, but also as their substance.
Diverse in terms of their image and object-making practices, and encompassing casting and sculptural processes, drawing, painting and photography, these artworks nevertheless have one thing in common: they
can all be considered to be examples of what we term « biomaterial » artworks.

The human body has long provided a source of interest for artists, as both the subject and object of a wide range of artistic practices throughout history and across cultures. The body in art has been the subject of an extensive and growing literature that engages with themes as diverse as the history of anatomy and the arts, contemporary performance art, body modification practices such as tattooing, bioart practices that utilise living matter as its new media, and extensive feminist and queer readings of art, power and politics. Whilst the human body thus remains an important concern for scholars studying visual and material culture in fields such as art history, anthropology and the medical humanities, little scholarly attention has been paid to modern and contemporary art practices that use the raw material of the human body itself in the production of artworks.

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to address this by examining the creative manipulation and use of human biological matter in the production of artworks, their display and critical reception. Artworks in all media will be considered, providing that human biomatter has been used in the production of the work. The conference aims to explore biomatter-as-art-medium, in multiple forms: Body fluids such as blood, semen, tears, milk and vomit; excreta such as faeces, urine and sweat; skin and adnexa such as hair and nails; bone and teeth; organs and whole bodies; and cell cultures and DNA. Human bodily materials are frequently invested with highly symbolic cultural power and complex visceral and emotional entanglements, thus the use of human biomatter as art medium opens up an intriguing cultural space to reflect critically upon the relationships between materiality, aesthetics, affective response, ethics and the production of cultural meaning.

Bioart as a form of art/science crossover practice has been defined as an artistic practice that includes live biological materials (human and animal), or techniques, and thus much bioart falls within the category « biomaterial ». However, where previous scholarship in this field has hitherto tended to focus upon biotechnological processes, Bodily Matters seeks to engage more explicitly with biological materials and post-mortem biomatter, as well as expanding our focus to include a wider range of biomaterial art processes that may encompass photography, sculpture, painting, assemblages and installation, and performance art.

20-minute paper proposals are invited from scholars and artists in any field, which engage with, but are not limited to, material, aesthetic and ethical approaches to artworks made with/from human biomatter. Topics may, for example, include:

•    The post-mortem body – ethical and legal aspects of the use of human remains as/in art;
•    Artistic practice and the medical museum;
•    Whole bodies vs. body parts;
•    Artist’s body vs. donated/appropriated biomatter;
•    Materiality of biomatter as it relates to affective response;
•    Material and ethical approaches to bioart practice;
•    Biomatter as process and/or substance of artworks;
•    Science/art collaborations;
•    Living vs. dead biomatter;
•    Solid vs. fluid biomatter;
•    Biomaterial ethnographic artefacts, anthropology and art;
•    Representations of biomaterial artworks in literature, film and popular culture;
•    Exhibition, display and critical reception of biomaterial artworks.
Please send 300-word proposals (attached as a .doc file, in English) together with a short biographical note including institutional affiliation (if relevant) to Gemma Angel ( by March 1st 2016. Contributors will be notified that their proposal has been accepted by mid-April 2016.
For more information visit:
It is proposed that a selection of papers will be published.
Supported by UCL Institute of Advanced Studies & UCL Pathology Museum.

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