Since summer 2017 the Department of Media Theory offers an open Lab Class to art students and non-scientists where they can engage hands-on with biology and immerse themselves in current biotechnological research. Biotechnology is, without doubt, one of our most important resources for dealing with global challenges, now and in the future, such as food security, water management, pandemics, ecological collapse, climate change, or the need for new sources of energy. Our open Lab Class is designed to provide students from all disciplines with sound practical knowledge about how to bring creative approaches together using experimental methods in art and the life sciences. The aim is to give art students the opportunity to learn and work on biological concepts, bioart and biodesign, basics in genomics, synthetic biology, neuroscience as well as to offer insights into the cultural and social implications of emerging cutting-edge technologies in biotechnology, like genome editing (CRISPR-Cas9). Bioart is a major element to engage with biotechnology in class, because art enables a tangible encounter with a great number of issues concerning biotechnology, including paradoxes, ambiguities, and uncertainties, because art can offer a non-normative approach to explore the implications and challenges of biotechnology.
Our Lab Class is open to all students and is part of the course “Understanding Biomedia” (4 ECTS) given by artist Günter Seyfried (in English). The course examines biomedia in their constitutive artistic, technical, cultural, epistemological, and political dimensions. Günter Seyfried introduces and analyses key approaches to the use of knowledge, methods, and processes abstracted from biology and the life sciences in art and design. Students explore the interdisciplinary character of biomediality, and become familiar with the role of methods, discourses, and experimental designs and their mediation in the life sciences and the interrelation of bioscientific epistemes and form in bioart and biodesign practices. The course addresses important developments in synthetic biology, DIYbio, and related fields so that students can acquire a profound understanding of technological changes accompanied by social shifts and their unfolding cultural and political impacts. Our Lab Class seeks to establish a shared learning process and build theoretical and practical proficiency and a repertoire of intuitive perspectives to understand new approaches in art, science, and technology and how these influence attitudes, behaviour, and identities, both individual and social, to achieve insightful conclusions — including the students’ own artistic development, ideas, and skills. In a number of workshops the course offers insights into genome editing, CRISPR, and various techniques developed by the DIYbio community.
Günter Seyfried is an artist who lives and works in Vienna. Since 2017 he teaches the seminar “Understanding Biomedia” at the Department of Media Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna. He studied medicine and psychology at the University of Vienna and digital art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna where he gained his diploma in 2008. In his projects he combines arts-based and scientific research, and in recent years he has completed a number of cross-disciplinary projects as a freelance artist in which art, biology, and synthetic biology intersect. His work is shown at international exhibitions and also features in many publications. In addition to his teaching positions at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Department of Art and Knowledge Transfer (2008–2016) and the Department of Media Theory (2017–), at the New Design University St. Pölten, course on Design, Trades, and Material Culture (2016–), Günter Seyfried gives lectures, seminars, and workshops at prominent institutions (HeK House of Electronic Arts Basel, Folkwang University of the Arts Essen, Waag Society Amsterdam, University of Naples Federico II) and at festivals (Pixelache Helsinki, Cynetart Dresden, Border Sessions Den Haag, Bio-Fiction Vienna). Günter Seyfried worked for the Stella Art Foundation in Moscow (2004–2010) on an entire series of projects, and currently works for Biofaction in Vienna (2012–). He is a founder member of the Institute for Polycinease (2004) and pavillon_35, the Society for Science-based Art (2012).