Medieval Art & Bioart: ars longa, vita brevis v. ars brevis, vita longa

Science and religion have been the two most influential entities for answering critical questions of humanity and remedying its ills throughout history. Medieval art and bioart are the two most alike genres for this reason – they both seek to artistically express a specific doctrine (biblical, peer-reviewed) that attempts to save people (heaven, prolonged life) through institutions (the church, the laboratory). Artists in the medieval/Renaissance asked the same questions of religion (see Leo Steinberg The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion) as bioartists do of science - the reigning enterprises of truth.

Artists in the medieval period were dealing with Christianity when it was in transition, constantly evolving as religious leaders quibbled over the specifics of salvation. We are at a comparable stage with biotechnology, inflection points of innovation mark a new and unpredictable discipline characterized by competing theories. Medieval artists were the communications specialists of their time (especially considering literacy) and addressed inconsistencies in religious values while still inspiring faith in a long term commitment to the church.

Art that brings religion and science into conversation with each other can identify visual and ideological similarities, pitting religious beliefs against scientific realities in an age of miracle, wonder, and consequence.




Inspiration credit: Andrew Wilkinson, artist