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The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age

Book Series:  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press Series on Genomics, Bioethics, and Public Policy
Subject Area(s):  Biology in SocietyGeneral Interest Titles

By Suzanne Anker, School of Visual Arts, New York; Dorothy Nelkin, New York University

© 2004 • 216 pp., illus., index
Hardcover •
ISBN  978-087969697-9

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  •     Description    
  •     Contents    
  •     Reviews    


The gene has become a cultural icon and an increasingly rich source of imagery and ideas for visual artists. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary painting and sculpture, The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age explores the moral and bioethical questions these works address. What does it mean to be human? What is “identity” in a society of genetically manipulated individuals? Questions like these are growing louder as genetic technology advances and the public examines the ethical consequences more widely. Suzanne Anker and Dorothy Nelkin, an artist and a social scientist, have written a thought–provoking and visually fascinating book for scientists, artists, students, and general readers intrigued by the anxiety and exhilaration of the genetic age.


Chapter 1. Deciphering DNA: The Art and Science of a Supermolecule
Chapter 2. Reductionism: Reducing the Body to a “Code Script” of Information
Chapter 3. Mutation, Manipulations, and Monsters: The New Grotesque in Art
Chapter 4. Blurring Boundaries: Chimeras and Transgenics
Chapter 5. Breeding Better Babies: A New Eugenics?
Chapter 6. Commodification: Genes for Sale
Chapter 7. Science as Culture: Through the Artist's Lens


review:  “In The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age, authors Suzanne Anker and Dorothy Nelkin examine the intersections between art and science in the developing arena of genetic research and engineering. The book is clearly written, well documented, and lavishly illustrated. It will appeal to a wide audience, including artists, scientists, and the general public with an interest in the host of ethical and social questions raised by molecular science.”
      —Genome News Network

review:  “The Molecular Gaze, published just months after the sad death of Dorothy Nelkin, is a work of art. Literally, in the sense of being about art (and more specifically, about art in the age of genetics), and figuratively, in the sense of being a visually elegant and aesthetically satisfying production. It is also timely: as Anker (an artist and art historian) and Nelkin (a sociologist of science) document, in the space of little more than a decade, the incorporation of molecular genetics into the visual arts—as icon, as motif, as subject, and even as technique—has emerged as a not so minor industry.”