Frances Stracey, 1963-2009

A researcher who pioneered new thinking on activism in art and the boundaries between art and science has died.

December 31, 2009

Frances Stracey was born on 4 October 1963 and embarked on her artistic career by obtaining a foundation diploma at Hertfordshire College of Art and Design in St Albans, followed by a BA in fine art (painting and photography) at Norwich School of Art in 1986.

She then took up a post as a medical photographer in the department of medical illustration at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and later became an assistant subject librarian in art history at the Slade Duveen Library, University College London.

Dr Stracey then switched to an academic track and embarked on an MA at UCL from 1994 to 1996, where she focused on "Modernism and the Politics of Representation". She continued with a PhD on the "Pursuit of the Situationist Subject" in 1997-2000, exploring the revolutionary Situationist International movement, which lasted from 1957 to 1972 and proved highly influential during the 1968 protests in France.

This research bore fruit in a number of articles and a book, provisionally titled Constructed Situations, which she managed to complete before her death.

While completing her doctorate, Dr Stracey worked as a visiting and part-time lecturer at both the Slade School of Fine Art and the history of art department at UCL, where she obtained a full-time position and became a senior lecturer in 2001.

Alongside further study of activist and avant-garde post-war art in media ranging from posters to graffiti to the internet, she turned her attention to the impact of scientific innovations such as nanotechnology and transgenic mutations on artistic practices, focusing on "body politics" and "bio-politics".

She was also the co-organiser of the interdisciplinary Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture lecture, seminar and research forum.

Tamar Garb, head of the history of art department at UCL, remembered Dr Stracey as someone of "enormous energy", whose "intelligence, integrity and humour were a light in the department for her colleagues and students alike".

She added: "Partly through her innovative teaching, Frances put herself at the forefront of an entirely new field of inquiry into the relationship between art and science.

"An example of her highly original and important work on biogenetics and the use of biological materials in recent art practice was published in Nature in 2009 as 'Bio-art: the ethics behind the aesthetics'."

Dr Stracey died of cancer on 30 November.

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