Lesson 6

The Posthuman in Art: Semi-Living Sculptures and Naked Life

Pernille Leth-Espensen

As a case study in posthuman phenomena today, this lecture looks at the use of the living body in art as a medium for negotiating contradictions in the concept of biological unity, which is being continually challenged by accelerating developments in biotechnology. BioArt uses living tissue or biological processes as an artistic medium, not only to explore the body as an aesthetic object, but to negotiate the boundaries between bodies in space and time, between bodies and species, and between body and mind, distinctions that are becoming increasingly fragile. Using examples from BioArt and other art/science-collaborations, we explore the tensions between science, art and biopolitics as they overlap in the case of the posthuman and the new avant-garde art forms that are developing alongside it.


  • Haraway, Donna J (2003). “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.” In The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 516-541. Also other editions.
    • If you can’t find this particular edition, others abound around the web.
  • Lemke, Thomas (2011). “Beyond Foucault. From Biopolitics to the Government of Life” In Governmentality. Current Issues and Future Challenges, edited by Ulrick Bröckling, Susanne Krassmann and Thomas Lemke. New York: Routledge, pp. 165-184.
    • Should be possible to find. Search around!
  • Catts, Oron and Ionat Zurr (2007). “Semi-Living Art.” In Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, edited by Eduardo Kac, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. pp. 231-247.
    • Should be available at most university libraries as an ebook. Otherwise, orient yourself superficially as best you can.


  • For this week’s assignment students must find an academic text (journal article, book chapter, book or academic internet article) besides the texts on the curriculum. The text can either be related specifically to the subjects of this week’s lecture or to posthuman themes more broadly. Make a short summary of the key argument and describe why you would recommend your fellow students to read it (200-300 words). Deadline is November 23.
  • After posting your own assignment on the course blog, find at least two other posts and reply to them in a critically engaging way. Deadline is November 24