[ISEA2011] Paper: Marta Mikolajewska – The Art of Living Systems


In my paper I would like to turn to a fundamental yet still only partially answered question: what is life? The answer depends to a large degree on the definition we adopt. This ambiguity and indeterminacy is problematic and raises doubts, whereas crucial decisions often have to be made by means of precedent. Where paralogy is the best methodology available, questions still remain to linger: on what level of cell/ tissue complexity can we speak of life? What do we perceive as an entity? Can life be reduced to numbers, codes, or algorithms? Having these issues in mind, I would like to reflect upon a group of chosen art works, which literally utilize ephemeral cases of life. In the structure of each composition tiny bits of what is ‘living’ or ‘alive’ cooperate together forming a complex system. These particular cases vary from life in the form of tissue culture (O. Catts, I. Zurr – Disembodied Cuisine), to artificial life (Ch. Sommerer, L. Mignonneau – A-Volve), from living architecture (Z. Oksiuta – Cosmic garden) to predatory biobots which feed upon real life (J. Auger, J. Loizeau, A. Zivanovic – Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots,) to a simulation of digestive system where millions of bacteria animate a network of a higher order (W. Delvoye – Cloaca). In my paper I will focus upon characteristic features that bring these seemingly different artworks together. I shall also propose a term “the art of living systems”, which serves as a common denominator.

  • Marta Mikolajewska / Marta Heberle graduated cultural studies at the University of Lodz, Poland. She specializes in issues related to bioart and transhumanism. She is an author of theoretical texts concerning postmedia art. She also creates her own fashion design projects. Currently she also operates in an area of actions on the border of music and performance [ LH+].

Full text (PDF) p. 1157-1161