Terranova, Charissa

Associate Professor

Office:  JO 3.920

Areas of Specialization:  Post-WWII Art, Architecture and Urbanism and Media Theory

Education: PhD, Architectural History and Theory, Harvard University
MA, Architectural History and Theory, Harvard University
MA, Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago
BA, Art History, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Charissa N. Terranova is Associate Professor of Aesthetic Studies in the Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is on sabbatical for the 2015-2016 academic year. During her sabbatical, Dr. Terranova will be completing two books, and laying the groundwork for another, her fourth. Terranova's Art as Organism: Biology and the Digital Image (IB Tauris 2015), which is currently in press, traces a bio-aesthetics of the light-image broadly conceived from 1920 to 1972, focusing on Lázló Moholy-Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes, Conrad Waddington, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Rudolf Arnheim, Kevin Lynch, and Op Art, New Tendencies, and the work of E.A.T. She is co-editing an anthology with Meredith Tromble titled the Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (Routledge, 2016). Her next and fourth book interrogates Moholy-Nagy's idea of a "biological bill of rights," and traces his interaction with a group of scientists. The research will follow the cross-over work of a group of embryologists and evolutionary developmental scientists called The Theoretical Biology Club, from their group activism of the 1930s to their work as the first-generation contributors to the art-sci-tech journal Leonardo starting in 1968. This research endeavor will take her to the Conrad Waddington archives in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Joseph Needham Institute in Cambridge, England, and to the Julian Huxley archives at Rice University in Houston.

When in full-session at the university, Terranova lectures and teaches seminars on art and architectural history, theory, and criticism, the history of biology in art and architecture, and media and new media theory. In January 2010, she stepped down from the position of founding director and curator of Centraltrak: The UT Dallas Artists Residency.

Research and Books

  • The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture, an anthology coedited with Meredith Tromble, Routledge Press, Architecture, forthcoming fall 2016
  • Art as Organism: Biology and the Evolution of the Digital Image, 1920-1970, I. B. Tauris, London, forthcoming spring 2016
  • Automotive Prosthetic: Technological Mediation and the Car in Conceptual Art. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2014

Dr. Terranova is currently completing two books. The first is an anthology titled The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture and is co-edited with Meredith Tromble. This anthology brings together essays from a transdisciplinary array of experts on biology in art, architecture, and design. They consider why, how, and under what circumstances artists, architects, and designers have integrated biology into their practices. The authors – artists, architects, designers, scientists, historians, and theoreticians – connect biological thought past and present, on topics such as complex systems, epigenesis, ecology, evolution, and expanded mind, to the use of living materials in art, architecture, and design. This anthology surveys the emergent field of biocreativity and outlines its theoretical foundations. The hybrid art-and-science thinking it reviews newly articulates the relationship between science and culture to meet the burgeoning needs of programs of academic study and research integrating biology into art, architecture, and design.

The second book project currently underway is titled Art as Organism: Biology and the Evolution of the Digital Image, 1920-1970. This book traces the development of the digital image in art, focusing on the centrality of the integrated human, i.e. the human as a total biological system of the mind, body, and senses. Art as Organism foregrounds current video and digital new media art, interactive gaming, and virtual reality in a materialist politics of the body, which effloresced around the interactions of artists and scientists in the twentieth century. The story unfolds across time among an array of modernists, including László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Benjamin, Gyorgy Kepes, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, J. D. Bernal, Conrad Waddington, Kevin Lynch, Rudolf Arnheim, Robert Rauschenberg, A. Michael Noll, and Billy Klüver, from the heady waters of Weimar Berlin to the New Bauhaus in Chicago to the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Automotive Prosthetic: Technological Mediation and the Car in Conceptual Art, Dr. Terranova’s first book, combines critical theory and new media theory to form the first philosophical analysis of the car within works of conceptual art. At its core, the book offers an alternative formation of conceptual art understood according to technology, the body moving through space, and what art historian, curator, and artist Jack Burnham calls “relations.” This thought-provoking study illuminates the ways in which the automobile becomes a naturalized extension of the human body, incarnating new forms of “car art” and spurring a technological reframing of conceptual art. Steeped in a sophisticated take on the image and semiotics of the car, the chapters probe the politics of materialism as well as high/low debates about taste, culture, and art. The result is a highly innovative approach to contemporary intersections of art and technology.