Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Alex Metral
2nd Author
3rd Author
MFA Critical theory and Studio.
Number of Pages
Maine College of Art
Thesis Supervisor
Dr. George Smith
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Iain Kerr, Katarina Weslien
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Philosophy, Art, Science.
Languages Familiar to Author
English French
URL where full thesis can be found
aesthetic life-extention actant immortality genetic
Abstract: 200-500 words
The recent developments in life extension continually reshape our understanding of human lifespan. Due to the realities, promises and fears of what we call the genetic revolution, our perceptions of the limited human lifespan is changing. Proteomics, transgenics, and anti-ageing technologies are the new vehicles for the recontextualization of a human life. Purpose and anxiety, historically rich areas for artists, have ripened to override the desire for mere immortality as it has been represented in previous artistic discourses. Art, having had a precursory role in the materialization of immortality is now foretelling a new possibility of life extension. In this new techno-aesthetic discourse; representations of biology in media such as digital motion, photography, cell culture, anatomy art, and performance, bridge the ever-narrowing gap between the scientific and aesthetic realms. Most importantly, these modes of media allow a new model of being. With these developments, art as a purveyor of immortality becomes absorbed by technology as a discourse of life extension. I use the word purvey to suggest the economic aspects of the problem, and indeed I will trace the transition from immortality to life extension in terms of shifts in modes of production, the advent of class jumping, and discussing as well the ideological function of concurrent artforms. This transition can be seen in the studio practice of Vito Acconci, Roy Ascott, Helen Chadwick, Olafur Eliasson, Patricia Piccinini, Karl Sims, the Tissue Culture and Art project, Marliene Oliver and Dr. Gunthar Von Hagen, among others. This thesis presents the historical trajectory of aesthetic representations of immortality, and a current paradigm shift resulting in a new aesthetic discourse of life extension. It begins with the Greco-Roman period, follows through modes of production in the historic times of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Galileo and brings us into late-capital and the advent of recent life-extension biotechnology. Contemporary art and philosophy will be presented in this study, as well as literature and science writings. I will take us through this argument through three key positions: We are now embedded in a new aesthetic discourse which gives rise to an unprecedented possibility of advancement in human mutation; Life extension overrides the desire for immortality as represented in previous artistic discourses; And finally I will show the shift away from immortality to representation of life extension as a spiritual/truth dynamic that represents technology, positioning my own work as a recent contribution.