Meta-Life | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University


691 pages
July 2014

Biotechnologies, Synthetic Biology, ALife and the Arts

This groundbreaking collection documents artists use of biotechnologies and artificial life. The editors have commissioned original essays by key figures across these intersecting fields and collected over 40 related articles previously published in the Leonardo journal that document the ideas and practice of artists, theoreticians and historians. Chapters include: Between Bio, Silico and Synthetic: Of Life and Arts; Artificial Life and the Arts; Bioart; Bio-Fiction, Design, Architecture; DIY Biology-Biohacking.

Artists have opened new avenues in the art world by employing these developments in biotechnology, synthetic biology and Artificial Life; going from inanimate to autonomous objects to living creatures; exploring the thin border between animate and inanimate; confronting the grown, the evolved, the born and the built; and raising aesthetic but also social, political and ethical issues.

New forms of "exo-life" may not arrive on Earth from outerspace by hitching a ride on a meteorite, but instead come out of the lab, designed by scientists—or perhaps artists—weaving together biology and computing in a petri dish or bioreactor. 

Over the last fifty years our ideas about the nature of life have changed dramatically. Revolutionary advances in genetics and molecular biology have given us new insights into how carbon based life on our planet originates and functions. In more recent years the development of synthetic biology has dramatically expanded our ability to design and modify life forms. At the same time, disruptive developments in computing technologies have led to the possibility of generating digitally-based artificial life. And outside traditional institutions, emerging DIY, bio-hacking and citizen science movements have begun to appropriate laboratory technologies, challenging ideas about the governance of the life sciences. 

Contributors: Suzanne Anker, David Benqué, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, Alessandro Delfanti, Tagny Duff, Cathal Garvey, George Gessert, Eduardo Kac, Denisa Kera, Marta de Menezes, Jane Prophet, Tom Ray, Ken Rinaldo, Edward Shanken, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, Polona Tratnik, Nell Tenhaaf, and Adam Zaretsky are among the 45 authors. 

A web companion to this ebook is available at

The Meta-Life ebook is a project by Leonardo/Olats ( as an outcome of the European Studiolab Project (, supported by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme, in partnership with Leonardo/ISAST and The MIT Press and in collaboration with ATEC at the University of Texas at Dallas (