The blade and the claw: science, art and the creation of the lab-borne monster

Deborah P. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


Here I outline some of the fears, as well as some of the desires, associated with the lab-borne monster as manifest in the emergent genre of critical BioArt. Using a recent installation on Disembodied Cuisine to ground my discussion, I look first to the chimeric character of biotechnology per se, as well as the hybridised practices and products of this close collaboration between Science and Art. I then take the opportunity to explore how the partial life-forms of a critical BioArt—conceived of as the material products of a 'wetware' that exists on the borders of the laboratory and the exhibition, life and death, organism and machine, subject and object—speak to the notion of monstrosity on a number of levels. As designer life forms they are inspired by, but also reflect upon, their 'naturally' conceived siblings: they illustrate the increasing capacity of various technologies to re-order materials into new combinations and assemblages, while their aesthetics trouble and excite. As ersatz sybillines they are a product of the time and place within which they are created, but are also portents of what is to come. And, as replicant subjects, they are destined to be experimented upon, observed and assessed, providing us a 'living laboratory' through which we learn ever more about our own frailties and capabilities. I conclude with an explicit consideration of the political import of these perilous beasts which, though they fail to escape the strictures of a property-based society, yet enact a visceral aesthetic that refuses more of the same.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-692
Number of pages22
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2008


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