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The Body as Biomonitor

Fields Harrington, Shen-Shen Wu
September 18, 2023 to November 20, 2023 (10 classes)
Mondays, 4 - 7pm
Online (Zoom)
$1200 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on August 13, 2023

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This course examines the ethical dimensions and consequences of the empirical research of human biomonitoring and genetic sampling. Since the 1960s human biomonitoring and genetic technologies have used the bodies of workers as chemical sensing devices for polluted territories and toxic work sites. The data that is produced by human biomonitoring unveils the metabolic entanglement between human populations and their environment. Beyond the sampling of urine, blood, and tissue of workers as chemical markers for occupational hazards, the DNA of the worker serves as a paramount biospecimen for genetic surveillance. As a group, we will discuss how the practices of genetic sampling and biotechnology enact the logistics of surveillance under the guise of objectivity and environmental public policy. In addition, we will interrogate the practices of contemporary artists who make use of DNA and other biotechnical processes in their work. This course embraces interdisciplinarity by thinking across the natural sciences, genetic surveillance, risk assessment, and bioethics.

Course of Study

  • Week 1: Orientation - History of SFPC community agreement, learning objectives, about the final project, and meeting the participants.
  • Week 2: Introduction to Human Biomonitoring and Genetic Sampling - Historical context and development of these practices; Importance of ethical considerations in empirical research
  • Week 3: Biomarkers for Occupational Hazards - The use of urine, blood, and tissue samples as chemical markers; Ethical concerns regarding the sampling and analysis process; Occupational health and safety regulations and their implications
  • Week 4: Genetic Surveillance and Biotechnology - Genetic sampling as a form of surveillance; Implications of genetic information gathering and storage; Privacy and security concerns in genetic surveillance
  • Week 5: Metabolic Entanglement: Human Populations and the Environment - Understanding the metabolic entanglement between humans and their environment, Analyzing data produced by human biomonitoring Examining the impact of chemical exposure on human health
  • Week 6: Logistics of Surveillance and Environmental Public Policy - Critical analysis of the practices of genetic sampling and biotechnology; Examining the role of surveillance in shaping environmental public policy
  • Week 7: Interrogating Artists' Use of DNA and Biotechnical Processes - Exploration of contemporary artists' incorporation of DNA and biotechnology in their work; Discussion of ethical considerations raised by these artistic practices; Examining the intersection of art, science, and ethics
  • Week 8: Interdisciplinary Perspectives: Natural Sciences and Genetic Surveillance - Integration of natural sciences in genetic surveillance; Ethical considerations in scientific research and data interpretation
  • Week 9: Risk Assessment and Bioethics - Understanding risk assessment methodologies in human biomonitoring; Ethical frameworks and principles in bioethics; Balancing risks and benefits in decision-making
  • Week 10: Ethical Reflection and Future Directions - Final presentations


Class Structure
  • During the 10-week duration of our class, we will engage in a collective effort to create a publication that focuses on the topics we discuss in our lessons(bioethics, biomonitoring, genetic sampling, etc.). Each member of the class will contribute their own unique ideas and perspectives to this project. By the end of the course, we will publish this work digitally, showcasing the original contributions made by every individual in the class.
  • Instructors may initiate discussions in class to delve deeper into the assigned readings. Participants should be prepared to engage in these discussions by reflecting on the key points, analyzing the arguments, and contributing their perspectives.
  • During certain class sessions, participants may be divided into small groups to discuss specific topics or case studies related to the readings. Active participation in these breakout discussions is crucial for developing a comprehensive understanding of the material and gaining insights from peers.
Time & Workload
  • Participants are expected to spend time outside of class on assigned readings. These readings provide essential background information, theories, concepts, and examples related to the course material. They are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions related to the assigned readings. This includes sharing their thoughts, insights, and questions about the content.
Learning Outcomes
  • Explore the ethical implications of using human bodies as chemical sensing devices for environmental monitoring.
  • Examine the role of genetic surveillance and biotechnology in shaping the practices of surveillance and environmental public policy.
  • Identify and synthesize theoretical, historical, and sociological themes in the following areas: philosophy of science, Black studies, biomonitoring, genetic sampling, and history of science.
  • Investigate the ways in which contemporary artists utilize DNA and biotechnical processes in their work, and analyze the ethical considerations involved.
  • Develop interdisciplinary thinking by integrating knowledge from the natural sciences, genetic surveillance, risk assessment, and bioethics.

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if:

  • If you are an artist or designer interested in the ethical implications of scientific research and technological advancements.
  • If you are curious about the intersection of biology, genetics, and ethics.
  • If you are passionate about bioethics and the ethical considerations surrounding human biomonitoring and genetic sampling.
  • If you are interested in environmental ethics and the social and environmental impacts of industrial activities.
  • If you are intrigued by the use of genetic surveillance and the potential consequences it may have on individuals and society.
  • If you are an artist or designer interested in exploring the creative and artistic applications of biotechnology, DNA, and other scientific processes.
  • If you liked the film Gattaca.

Meet the Teachers


Fields Harrington

fields harrington is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He works across disciplines and media to investigate the social and political dimensions of race, value, and the complex history of science. fields studied at San Antonio Community College and received his BFA from the University of North Texas and his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a participant in the Whitney Independent Study Program (2019-2020). He has presented solo exhibitions at David Salkin Gallery (2020), and Y2K Group (2021). He has also exhibited in group shows at Parsons School of Design, Recycled Artist In Residence, 52-07 Flushing Avenue, and Automat Gallery. fields harrington was a L.A.B. researcher in residence at The Kitchen in collaboration with The School for Poetic Computation (2023) and participated in the research residency Site to be Seen at RAIR (2021), and teaches at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School, Parsons School of Design, and The Cooper Union.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Shen-Shen Wu

Shen-Shen is a futurist who cares about the wellness of people, communities, and ecosystems. Artist-Activist. Coder-Curator. Photographer-Writer. Taiwanese-Canadian. She was destined to be a hyphenate. She is driven by her love of adventure, curiosity about consciousness, and respect for both science and spirituality. She believes that everything is connected, and so, the best creation lies at the intersection of art and technology. She has an open mind, clear vision, and fire in her heart. She’s here to make the world a better place.

she/her · website


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

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Do you own your cells? Do we own ourselves?

Applications open until Applications closed on August 13, 2023.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on August 25, 2023. Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $1200 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.