Clones and Mutants: Genetics and Photography
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What is the difference between an original and a copy? Why do we place such value on individuality? In this interdisciplinary program, we aim to investigate and play with the themes of duplication, variation, and recombination in genetics and photography. Toward that goal, we will be exploring three strands together.
In one strand we will study the principles of genetics and molecular biology. We will explore the concept of the gene as a unit of function, normally faithfully transmitted from generation to generation during reproduction, but capable of undergoing random mutation and recombination to generate variation—essential for the process of evolution.
In another strand we will use black and white photography to assist us in learning to see the world through the eyes of visual artists, attempting to animate inanimate objects and “make the ordinary extraordinary.” Our guides will be famous historical photographers, from those who worked in traditional ways (like Robert Frank and Minor White) to surrealists (like Man Ray and Grete Stern), whose goals were to scratch beneath the surface of our waking consciousness to tap into one of the primary sources of artistic imagination: dreams. Just as geneticists use fruit flies in their research, we will use cameras to create both regular photographs and photographic mutations.
In a final strand we will consider the theme of mechanical reproduction by considering works by critics, including Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. We will also examine how fiction captures and arranges moments in the process of reconstituting the experience of life by reading such authors as Virginia Woolf, André Breton, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Teju Cole, and Ali Smith.
Our goal is to weave these strands together to produce an understanding about the world informed by both cognition and intuition. This is a rigorous program involving lectures, workshops, seminars, darkroom, and laboratory science work. Learning will be assessed by weekly seminar writing assignments, exams, lab notebook, photography portfolio, and program portfolio.
This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:
biology and visual art.
Credits per quarter
- Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
$50 fees for museum entrance fees and photography supplies.
Class Size: 46
25% Reserved for Freshmen
Scheduled for: Day
Final schedule and room assignments:
First meeting:Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - 9:00 am
Located in: Olympia