Epigenetic Landscape

Assuming that there exists at all levels of nature a principle corresponding to the path of most economic action or least resistance (which is only a misguidedly negative expression of the deeper principle that every action is nonetheless accompanied by its own sufficient conditions), the rivulets and modulations of the epigenetic landscape correspond to built-in tendencies, or default scenarios, that would condition the evolution of forms in the hypothetical absence of supplementary forces acting over time. But one should not be fooled into taking the “form” of the epigenetic landscape as itself “essential,” fixed,or predetermined. For it, too, is only a template, or virtual form. assembled in another dimension, as a multiplicity generated by an extremely complex field of forces.

Once time is introduced into this system, a form can gradually unfold on this surface as a historically specific flow of matter that actualizes (resolves, incarnates) the forces converging on the plane. These are the phenomenal forms that we conventionally associate with our lived world. What we have generally failed to understand about them is that they exist, enfolded in a virtual space. but are actualized (unfolded) only in time as a suite of morphological events and differentiations ever-carving themselves into the epigenetic landscape.

We would not be unjustified in saying, then, that in Boccioni’s Stati d’animo series, what we find depicted are three evental complexes, or three morphogenetic fields, each arrising within the same complex system of real matter and forces. Their startling morphological variety can be accounted for by the fact that each is triggered by a different singularity that, in turn, binds it to a specific attractor – farewells: turbulence, aggregation; parting, bifurcation, declension; staying: inertia, laminarity. The inchoate qualities of the form “fragments” that traditionally we are conditioned to see here are, in fact, nothing else than the manifest work of time plying the folds of matter to release the virtual forms within it. Each panel defines a unique field of unfolding, a section through a distinct epigenetic landscape in which forms exist only in evolution or equilibrium, that is, as event-generated diagrams, incarnating the multiple conflictual play of forces across all the dimensions of space and their modalities of convergence at a single specific instant in time.

-Sanford Kwinter | assemblage 19
-illustration from Conrad H. Waddington, Strategy of the Genes

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Categories: Theory


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