Marcia Tanner

Where the Girls Are: Women Artists, Science and Technology

Date 3/30/09

Affiliation Curator and Writer, Berkeley, CA


Feminist critiques of scientific culture have expanded the discourse around scientific history, practice and theory since the 1960's, while offering new possibilities for artistic investigation. Discussions include how male-gendered language has dominated descriptions of biological and other scientific processes, and whether there are sexual differences in approaches to the study of living organisms and systems.

The ways in which contemporary female artists employ digital and electronic technology to explore scientific themes and issues is fascinating to me. I'm intrigued by their uses of interactivity and humor, their interpretations of "relational aesthetics," and their morphing of traditional feminist concerns into often subtle yet powerful critiques of patriarchal structures, gender politics and established assumptions in technology and science. I'm particularly intrigued by their approaches to the biological sciences, and their uses of experimental media in these investigations.

While not advancing an essentialist thesis, this talk will investigate the practices of artists such as Kathy High, Nina Katchadourian, Rachel Mayeri, Patricia Piccinnini, Sabrina Raaf, Gail Wight, Diane Willow and others whose work focuses on scientific process and history. I hope it will provoke a lively discussion on, among other topics, the evolution, current directions and relevance of 21st C. female perspectives and feminist art practice in science -- biological sciences especially -- and new media.


Marcia Tanner is an independent curator and writer based in Berkeley, California. Former director of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Tanner most recently organized We Interrupt Your Program at Mills College Art Museum in 2008. Her previous exhibitions include Brides of Frankenstein at the San Jose Museum of Art (2005); Bad Girls West, UCLA Wight Art Gallery (1994); We Look and See, Berkeley Art Museum (1996); Shadow Play and Location, Location, San Jose ICA; Aural Sex and Lineaments of Gratified Desire, Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; and Dromology: Ecstasies of Speed and LifeLike, New Langton Arts, San Francisco. The author of numerous reviews, articles and catalog essays, Tanner's writings on art have appeared in Art+Text, ArtNews, Art Ltd., Artweek, Cabinet, Flash Art, Leonardo, LIMN Magazine, Rhizome News, the San Francisco Chronicle,, and other publications. She is a member of the Board of LEONARDO/International Society for the Arts and Sciences, and chairs the Collections Committee of the Judah Magnes Museum, Berkeley, California.

-- As of 3/30/09