‘Aitiai’ Concerning Genetic Art


Session Title:

  • Philosophy and Ethics of Bioart

Presentation Title:

  • ‘Aitiai’ Concerning Genetic Art




  • This paper translates elements of an ancient theory of causation and explanation namely, Aristotle’s concept of ‘aitiai’ to illustrate a novel interpretation in new media Genetic art and theory. I argue that the causal properties underlying the concept of aitiai are characteristically pending action requisites and are therefore analogous to the causal properties of proto-animation. My underlying concept of proto-animation developed previously as a new ideology of Genetic art theory without this classic referent is explained in this new context.

    This particular form of biotech art and this ideology emanating from it involves an intersection of art, genetic science and technologies located specifically at the genetic level. The peculiar condition explicated by art modelled on genetics involves so-called ‘non-coding’ molecular material in a predicament, which I argue is essentially a proto-animated material-form-space within genomes.

    In his concept of aitiai, Aristotle advocated that there are four factors, which can be used to explain matter and form relationships more completely. He gave each a performative role by designating them specific causes. The composite condition of these four causes is collectively called aitiai. Aristotle’s account of matter and form interrelationships, which he referred to as ‘Hylomorphism’, is developed as part of this overarching context and this is also intrinsic to the nature of the proto-animate expressed here.

    Furthermore, Aristotle advocated that the aitiai causes apply to and operate between the components of all generated compounds, natural or artificial. It is as a consequence of this atomistic or molecular disposition that it is arguably an apt frame of reference for a molecular and genomic art context. That is one involving what are both natural and artifactual bio-molecular compounds considered in a contemporary genetic technology mediated environment.

    Conceptually the work draws upon an interpretation of the ancient philosopher’s cause theory to advocate a novel pending condition of matter/ form understanding. From this perspective, the aitiai is perceived in a pending, proto-animated causal state.

    This idea is translated across to the novel concept of a recondite proto-animate condition operating inside the genomic matter/form matrix of living organisms. It can be expressed tangibly as Genetic art materiality.

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