Rafael Lozano-Hemmer on Tue, 27 Nov 2001 22:38:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Life 4.0, Jury Statement


The jury for the Life 4.0 competition - Daniel Canogar, Machiko 
Kusahara, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sally Jane Norman and Nell Tenhaaf - 
reviewed 35 artworks that utilise artificial life concepts and 
techniques. These pieces were pre-selected from a group of 63 
submissions received from 18 countries. The first prize of the Life 
4.0 competition is shared by Scott Draves for Electric Sheep, a 
collectively generated screensaver, and Haruki Nishijima for Remain 
in Light, an interactive sound and light installation. This latter 
project was also the public's choice at the presentation of the 
awards in Madrid. The third prize is awarded to the Web-based artwork 
Novus Extinctus by the collective Transnational Temps (Andy Deck, 
Fred Adam, and Verónica Perales).


Electric Sheep
Scott Draves, USA

Electric Sheep, named after Philip K. Dick's famous novel "Do 
Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", aims to realise the collective 
dream of sleeping computers from all over the Internet. A 
screen-saver serves as a shared visual space, where clients offer 
computational power to generate animations or so-called "sheep". 
These are individual graphic entities based on a 65-number string of 
code randomly chosen by the server, rendered using the artist's 
fractal flame software (future versions will implement other 
generative animation software). Users can download the flock of sheep 
at any time and monitor the rendering of new ones - a permanent 
digital lambing season. User nicknames are stored for those who want 
to muster their own livestock. Though disk space limits the flock to 
about thirty live specimens, users can vote to extend the lives of 
their favourite sheep. The artificial life premise of this work 
functions effectively at both the metaphorical and software design 
levels: generative algorithms allow us to breed an online farm of 
digital "sheep". The work is strongly anchored in the ethics of 
freely distributed and participatory software development processes: 
creative energies firing new graphic beings come from donated 
computing cycles, and many enthusiastic shepherds have formed an 
active developer community. Thus, the "electric sheep farm" offers 
fertile ground for a new digital and social knowledge commons.

Remain in Light
Haruki Nishijima, Japan

We live surrounded by invisible electromagnetic waves. Wireless 
transmission signals create a dense network around us, a 
communicative tapestry that remains invisible. The Japanese artist 
Haruki Nishijima has visually represented these signals that surround 
us. In his installation Remain in Light the user becomes an 
entomologist who goes out to hunt for sounds equipped with a head 
set, a backpack handcrafted in the form of a traditional wooden 
collector´s box, and a butterfly net that doubles as an antenna. 
While walking through the city, the user captures fragments of sounds 
from media such as cellular phones or radio. In the installation 
site, the box that has recorded the sounds is opened for viewing, and 
is networked to a computer that coordinates a visual display. This 
display is composed of firefly-like lights projected on multiple 
transparent screens; each light corresponding to an individual sound. 
The screens are made of the same material that is used in Japan as 
insect screening. When the viewer approaches a projection screen, the 
floating points of light scatter, and as they hit the edge of the 
screen their corresponding sound is triggered. This is a poetic 
installation that binds an urban soundscape with an imaginary ecology.


Novus Extinctus
Transnational Temps (Andy Deck, Fred Adam, Veronica Perales), USA., 
France, Spain

The artists have made an extensive Internet artwork that includes a 
taxonomy of Web domain names, a search engine that sorts through this 
strange data, marketing slogans, user input into the site, and 
mysterious graphics that seem to be constructed from code. The key 
idea and message of Novus Extinctus is that the expansion of human 
presence on the World Wide Web parallels a frightening decline in 
biodiversity in our real world habitats: the number of Web domain 
names registered climbs daily but so does the number of extinct 
species. And so, to build the metaphor, domain names on the site are 
associated with Latin species names. When one selects a domain name 
and processes it, this association appears and also links to real 
animal sites, like TigerDirect.com. The marketing spoof continues in 
the Free Domain search engine for finding domain names that have 
recently become available through extinction, and in testimonials 
where the artists appear among others, praising the usefulness of the 
engine. The sociopolitical astuteness of this work is summed up in 
the artists' statement that our growing data bank of genetic codes, 
as in the Human Genome Project, cannot in any way compensate for the 
loss of species. Following from this perception, the site 
marvellously undermines the platitude that computer code and genetic 
code are somehow interchangeable, reminding us that an easy idea can 
become a dangerous one. This work was developed with the support of 
the Electrography Museum in Cuenca, Spain.

HONORARY MENTIONS (alphabetical order)

Relazioni Emergenti
Mauro Annunziato, Piero Pierucci, Italy

Entering the space, one encounters feather-like abstract patterns 
spreading on the screen accompanied with sound. As the participant 
moves his/her hand on the screen, the generation of graphic patterns 
follows the hand movement. Although they are not given life-like 
forms, the graphical and acoustical patterns evolve autonomously 
according to the genetic information and algorithm that allows them 
to mutate. A participant can freely interact with them by guiding and 
nurturing them, as the hand position fosters germination. The 
combination of continuous autonomous evolution and the 
transplantation by participants produces distributed local 
communities of patterns with subtle variety and beauty. The 
experience is as if one is given a green thumb in a digital garden. 
The piece invites participants to enjoy creating images with their 
bodies, showing the potentials of alife concepts not only in 
art-making but also in offering the joy of art and design experiences 
for many people.

The Table: Childhood
Max Dean and Raffaello D'Andrea, Canada and USA. 

Table is an ordinary-looking piece of furniture, something you might 
have in your office, that unexpectedly displays autonomous movement 
in response to someone entering its environment. The artificial 
behaviour that is built into this work is simple in one sense, 
because the table just glides across the floor of a small room that 
it can't get out of. But it is also unpredictable and complex. For 
example, it picks only one person from a group to respond to, it 
learns the body language of the individual it initiates a 
relationship with, and it also moves when there is no one in the 
room. The interaction is controlled through a vision system that uses 
a video camera and custom software. The Table's visible behaviour 
might be described as teasing: it makes small inviting movements when 
a person first comes into the room, it parries the person's movements 
as if it were challenging her or him (in fact, if a person is 
unresponsive the table becomes more active and enticing), and it 
might even block the doorway as the viewer is trying to leave through 
it. The Table: Childhood was a popular participant in the Venice 
Biennial, and its maturation process into adolescence and adulthood 

Castenedize!: Dingir 2.0
Ivor Diosi, E/Bone, Slovak Republic

Ivor Diosi combines projected virtual entities and primitivistic 
sculptural elements in a multi-user interactive installation space. 
Optical trackers and sound sensors monitor participant body motions 
and speech, using data thus gathered to trigger and catalyse computer 
graphics avatar behaviours. The screened view of the world offered to 
participants conveys a simple but effective impression of enmeshed 
realities: multiagent software animates playful, responsive swarms of 
graphic creatures. One of the challenges in mixed reality works is to 
create a convincing visual register for the aesthetics of combined 
real and virtual worlds: how can we build coherent relationships 
between solidly rooted physical objects and their weightless, 
computer-generated counterparts? Inspired by Castañeda cosmology, 
Dingir 2.0 embeds its sensors and speakers in hulks of simulated 
organic appendages which, in the physically and virtually morphed 
universe displayed to participants, enter into strange resonance with 
the digital avatar swarms.

Jessica Findley and Margot Jacobs, USA

These two artists have collaborated several times on interactive 
works, with an interest in creating experiences that invoke emotional 
responses. In the environment Breathe, the viewer has to enter a 
chamber made of white fabric where he or she lies down facing upward. 
A force sensitive resistor is strapped around the chest and then the 
person relaxes, breathing deeply. The resistor measures the flow of 
breath, and this is translated into a signal sent to two small motors 
that turn a pair of dowels. The person lying below sees two sets of 
strings moving up and down between the dowels: one follows their 
breathing, and the other plays back the breath of the previous 
occupant. A microchip coordinates all of the movement and records the 
breath. This mechanism generates a simple but elegant method for 
looping one person's experience into the next person's, or weaving 
together the breathing rhythm of an infinite string of people. This 
is a very accessible feedback system built with an intelligent 
economy of means.

Skeletal Reflections
Chico MacMurtrie, USA

Sooner or later, our world will be co-inhabited with humanoid robots 
with elegant looking yet robust bodies and intelligence. That is what 
robots such as Honda's PINO or Sony's ASIMO demonstrate. However, 
Chico MacMurtrie's Skeletal Reflections is quite different. The 
autonomous robot is designed intentionally as a skeleton without 
skin, with artistic taste. It simulates human beings as a machine, 
with a system that controls muscles. When a human demonstrates a 
posture, the robot recognizes it using the motion capture software, 
and mimics it. Gestures that we know from paintings depicting 
historical moments such as praying or elegant bowing, which have been 
associated with social, psychological, spiritual activities of human 
beings and legitimated in art history, become strangely out of place 
when they are convincingly performed by the skeletal robot. The piece 
deliberately and ironically raises questions about the relationship 
between humans and robots, and the way we have represented and 
recognized our emotions through postures in the course of history.

Jon McCormack, Australia

Eden is an interactive self-generating artificial ecosystem. 
McCormack uses a cellular automata model of A-life, with creatures in 
constant evolution simulating the characteristics of a real ecology. 
The creatures search for food, confront predators, and reproduce with 
other creatures. Simultaneously, they move through their environment 
transmitting and listening for each other's sounds, generating the 
soundscape that we hear while experiencing Eden. The survival of the 
virtual world depends on the presence of people in the installation 
space, because their movement feeds the creatures. The artificial 
world is projected onto two translucent screens that form an "x" in 
the space. This original configuration creates transparency and depth 
effects that enrich the reading of the work. Eden illustrates the 
emergent properties and open nature of A-life systems.

Machine autiste-artiste
Samuel Neuhardt, France

This young French artist's work conveys a critical approach to 
robotics and artificial life, where new technologies are often 
acclaimed as improving communication and exchange, and the cloning 
mythology tends to focus on propagating ideal and idealised 
creatures. Many robotics artists today strive to build virtuoso 
artificial artists: in the lineage of Vaucanson's eighteenth century 
clavecin-player, increasingly accomplished robots delight us as they 
paint, play music, write poetry, etc. Neuhardt's "machine 
autiste-artiste" is animated but at the same time totally refractory 
to communication. It rocks mechanically in a corner, ignoring all 
contact with the outside world. Its patently, noisily mechanical 
movement bleakly conveys an undeniably human pathology. The artist's 
twin or clone, designed to reflect the introversion and obsession he 
experiences during creative activity, thus acts as a disturbingly, 
chillingly intriguing specimen of artificial life. There is no 
empathy at work here, just irrefutable recognition of the state of 
non-communication that - like it or not - is also a vital component 
of human behaviour.


The Life 4.0 jury has also split the first "production incentive" 
award designed to help development of new A-life artworks in Latin 
America, Spain and Portugal. The two winning proposals represent very 
different artistic approaches to the field.

Cuarteto de Cuerda Robótico
Carlos Corpa, Basilio Martí, David Cabellos, Spain

One of the most compelling aspects of this group's robots is that 
they are born as part of a performative "community" --breaking the 
stereotype of a solitary anthropomorphic robot developed to serve 
humans. The robots are highly specialised individuals whose 
contribution to a collective performance of visual art and music 
proposes new machine aesthetics. Carlos' work seeks to contrast 
high-art elements like the string quartet with festive events closer 
to a popular carnival of excess. The gesticulating robotic performers 
will grind and strum devotedly at authentic, finely crafted musical 
instruments to generate sounds for a 21st century salon of decidedly 
concrete music. To focus solely on the parodic elements of the work 
might be to miss the fact that the mechanical spasms of these 
aspiring maestros, these would-be Paco de Lucias, call into question 
our perception of robots as utilitarian instruments capable of 
executing precise pre-calculated movements. The jury felt that the 
Robotic String Quartet may be taken to a next level of chaotic 
sophistication by supporting their development.

El Continuo
Enrique Rosas González, Mexico

Enrique Rosas González is a Mexican artist who is exploring the 
relationship between art science and technology in a thoroughly 
renaissance spirit, covering fields as diverse as electricity, 
electronics and botany. For the new Life 4.0 category to encourage 
new productions the artist has proposed "El Continuo", a complex, 
dynamic electrical and electronic sculpture. Enrique Rosas is 
interested in the cognitive processes of pattern recognition that we 
use to decipher reality, but from a very unique standpoint: he 
intends to relate scientific studies of matter with other more 
esoteric fields of knowledge such as archetypal memory and 
futurology. "El Continuo" clearly evokes Marcel Duchamp, particularly 
his famous "Bachelor Machine" considered by many people to be a 
metaphoric model of artificial life. "El Continuo" connects many 
elements including a plant, 24 networked computers, and two rotating 
discs that generate sparks and become praxinoscopes, those XIX 
century proto-cinematographic optical apparatuses that recreate the 
illusion of movement from static images. Couched in enigmatic 
language, this project reminds us of alchemical investigations of 
another era, which aimed to connect matter with the energetic 
dimension of life. The technological sophistication and highly 
personal aesthetics of Enrique Rosas's work appealed strongly to the 
Life 4.0 Jury.

Further information

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