In the Western cultural imaginaries the monstrous is defined – following Aristotelian categorisations – by its excess, deficiency or displacement of organic matter. These characteristics come to the fore in the field of bioart: a current in contemporary art that involves the use of biological materials (various kinds of soma: cells, tissues, organisms), and scientific procedures, technologies, protocols, and tools. Bioartistic projects and objects not only challenge the conventional ideas of embodiment and bodily boundaries, but also explore the relation between the living and non-living, organic and inorganic, human and nonhuman, as well as various thresholds of the living.
By looking at select bioartworks, this paper argues that the analysed projects offer a different ontology of life. More specifically, they expose life as uncontainable, that is, as a power of differentiation that traverses the divide between the living and non-living, organic and inorganic, human and nonhuman, and, ultimately, life and death. In this way, they draw attention to excess, processuality and multiplicity at the very core of life itself. Thus understood, life always already surpasses preconceived material and conceptual limits.
Finally, while taking Deleuzian feminisms and new materialism as its theoretical ground, the paper suggests that such a revision of the ontology of life may mobilise future conceptualisations of ethics that evade the anthropocentric logic dominant in the humanities and social sciences.