From Spiderman to Alba: Transgenics in a Post-Nuclear World

New Media Scholarship

This historical and theoretical paper, co-authored with Phillip Thurtle, explores post-1945 bio-mutants, in science fiction and comic superheros, as conceptual precursors to contemporary bio-art practices.

The full paper is archived by CIANT, and can be read HERE.


After the atomic bomb detonated over Japan in 1945, the world grappled to understand the significance of the event and its ramifications…what was the impact the nuclear bomb would have upon human life in a post-nuclear world? The A-bomb, still shrouded in military secrecy, existed as a looming question mark to be feared within the minds of world citizens. Cinema and comics responded to this anxiety and a new genre emerged: atomic science fiction, where radiation and nuclear fallout yield monsters and genetic mutants: giant ants, godzillas, shrinking men, sandmen, spidermen, and green hulks. Vis-à-vis media arts, these altered genetic life forms portrayed in popular visual culture since the 1950s, function as conceptual precursors to contemporary biological art and transgenic art and research. Such contemporary genetically amplified, hybridized and modified life forms, a.k.a. biological mutants, include Eduardo Kac’s GFP Bunny, ANDi the GFP monkey, Stelarc’s Extra Ear, and Art Orienté Object’s work with transfused Panda blood. We suggest that superheroes and transgenics offer a form of immanent exploration of a post-nuclear world where social decisions are too complex to completely understand, technology too advanced to adequately control, and scales of experience too terrible to directly experience.

Featured at:
RE:PLACE, Second International Conference on the Histories of Media, Art, Science and Technology, Berlin, Germany, Nov. 15-18, 2007
Mutamorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic, Nov. 8-10, 2007
The 21st Annual Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts: CODE, Portland, ME, Nov. 1-4, 2007