[-empyre-] alife and robotics prize announced..

Life 7.0, 2004 http://www.vidalife.org

The jury for the Life 7.0 competition in Madrid - Chris
Csikszentmihalyi (USA), Daniel García Andújar (Spain), Rafael
Lozano-Hemmer (MEX/CAN), José Carlos Mariátegui (Peru), Fiona Raby (UK)
and Nell Tenhaaf (CAN) - reviewed 60 artworks that utilise artificial
life concepts and techniques. These pieces were pre-selected from a
group of 82 submissions received from 24 countries. The Telefonica
Foundation in Spain will give out the following awards:

SHARED FIRST PRIZE (4,000 Euros each)

"Spore 1.1"
S.W.A.M.P. (Douglas Easterly)

Spore 1.1 makes visible, in an ironic manner, the artificiality of our
immediate reality by relating the business market to the ecosystem. The
artist purchased a plant at the Home Depot superstore and inserted it
in a mechanized installation that is connected to the Internet via a
wireless connection and programmed with open source software. The
installation periodically checks the value of Home Depot's stock over
the internet, activating a watering system: if share values are up the
plant gets watered. The underlined paradox is that Home Depot
guarantees the well being of the plant for one year and, if the plant
dies due to either falling or rising share values it has to be replaced
by the multinational, -a contract relating life and death.

"Universal Whistling Machine"
Marc Böhlen / JT Rinker

For hundreds of years, technologists have tried to design machines that
can speak and understand human language  -- a problem they have yet to
fully solve.  One 17th century automaton, Baron von Kempler's
artificial chess-playing Turk, famously defeated several of the best
players in Europe.  All it could say was "check."  Today, if one calls
a typical US corporation to get information or to settle a bill, it's
almost impossible to reach a human being; instead, you get a synthetic,
automated teller, usually with a chipper woman's voice.  Yet these
tellers can only understand a few words, because language, like most
aspects of human culture, is difficult to compute, complex and florid.
Marc Böhlen and J.T. Rinker are artists whose most recent effort to
develop a communication system may be one that computers can finally
understand: The Universal Whistling Machine, a tone-based based
interpreter of whistles.  Using advanced signal-processing computation
-- similar to the chips in mobile phones -- their system can extract
whistles from other sounds, and can exchange passages with humans, each
other, and even animals. Over time, it builds a database of every
whistle it's ever heard, increasing its vocabulary and range.  What
looks at first like a simple process becomes ever more interesting, a
technical mocking bird that's either mimicking or earnestly trying to
communicate. This project also received the Public award as it was the
most voted during the award presentation in Madrid.

SHARED THIRD PRIZE (1,000 Euros each)

"Dripping Sounds"
Federico Muelas Romero

Some images make reference to certain phenomena that occur
spontaneously in nature; from these we often make relations that,
beyond making new impressions on us, also generate intimate and
pleasant sensations. Dripping Sounds plays with this idea and amplifies
a phenomenon that we could consider part of our daily life,
transforming it into an augmented vision. At first this visual and
sound installation seems to be a weird apparatus, a mixture between a
rudimentary cinematic projector and a set of probes unusually connected
to big water containers through which liquid flows. The water
containers supply the system with a medium in which figures will be
generated. By means of a system of dripping, ink enters the water
medium generating aesthetic forms that transform and dissolve the ink
drops until the coloration changes and the process reinitiates.  The
image of the drops flows from a state of high concentration to a state
of low concentration, or greater dispersion. This refers us to the
concept of irreversibility in nature, that is to say, the impossibility
for a process to revert from its final state to its initial state. The
projection of light not only amplifies this phenomenon but since it
displays the image upside down it offers a different way of looking at
a well-known phenomenon, simulating that we are in front of a unique
film that will never be repeated in a similar way. The viewing area is
composed of 20 photosensitive sensors that transfer the movement of the
projected figures into independent sounds, giving the sensation of an
electroacoustic orchestra of similar instruments, but with a certain
degree of difference among them.

"PaCo - Poeta Automático Callejero Online"
Carlos Corpa and Ana María García Serrano

A robot, unable to walk, moves slowly around in a wheel chair. It seeks
out humans to ask for money in exchange for a 'machine' poem. Its arm
holds a moneybox, which it thrusts to the 'client' demanding a
response. When a coin is deposited a poem is read out. A hardcopy is
then made from a printer on its chest to complete and reinforce the
economic transaction.

Are we more likely to give money to a machine that sprouts poetry
rather than the person the machine has replaced? The 'replacement' does
not smell or spit when it speaks. But it is not a shiny neat
precision-made machine. It is haphazardly made from bits of discarded
material. In its attempts to be decrepit we question its motivation to
ask for money. Do we feel sorry for it? Or are we charmed and

HONORARY MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)

"Ornamental Bug Garden"
Boredom Research (Vicky Isley and Paul Smith)

It should be clear that the jury usually gravitates to the projects
that show the darker, more complicated and ethical dimensions around
life sciences.  But occasionally we find a project that's simply
beautiful.  Ornamental Bug Garden is such a project; graceful and
elegant, like a dinner date who's beautiful but a little dumb, but
that's okay, they're still fascinating.  Vicky Isley and Paul Smith
programmed this synthetic, aesthetic ecological system, literally
framing it on the wall as a living kinetic painting.  Below a dangling
set of branches, generated with the Lindenmayer system algorithms, is a
delicate ecosystem generated by rules of Turing machines and cellular
automata.  Little shapes jump around and onto each other, spores
explode, and bubbles float like pollen.  Combining elements from video
games, pachinko machines, and ornamental gardens, this delicate art
nouveaux tableau is decidedly two dimensional, but we appreciated the
mixture of apparently organic elements with unapologetically mechanical

Semiotic investigation into cybernetic behaviour
Jessica Field

Two 'decision making machines' given different capabilities of seeing
corroborate each other's perception of reality. They watch and discuss
the viewer. When the viewer behaves differently to how they predict,
the machines start to loose confidence in their opinion. They move from
certain, to uncertain, to disbelief and then concern.  Wonderfully and
tragically, each of the main protagonists Clara, Alan and the viewer
are flawed. Damaged. Alan is over confident, while Clara isn't
confident enough. As long as Alan thinks he is right he will not listen
to Clara's doubts. But his opinions are based on a slightly inferior
sensor, yielding 'one bit' readings, while Clara's are actually more
accurate. If Alan loses confidence he seeks Clara's opinion, and if the
viewer behaves in a manner he perceives as 'impossible' he becomes
totally irrational and worries that the viewer is a threat to his
safety.  The mechanical drama addresses our inability to achieve
complete understanding, but also plays out uneasily familiar gender
dynamics. Our pleasure is cruel. As the viewer we take enjoyment from
their increasing discomfort as both machines, fuelled by self-doubt,
become paranoid and irrational. But we are the ones being fooled by the
machines into pathetically believing that we have influence over their

Life Support Machine
Luca Gemma

This work promotes the concept and the experience of a therapeutic
inter-relationship between people and machines. Rather than expressing
a complex behaviour repertoire, the Life Support Machine has a calming
predictability that is based on the sound of waves. Thousands of fish
scales layered between plastic sheeting rub together driven by a
motorized mechanism that expresses recorded waveforms. The repetitive
but varied action generates a swishing sound and creates a rhythmic
motion that can push bodies around. This synthetic experience is meant
to convey a sense of relaxation and well being. Unlike the format of
the contemporary gym, there is no exhortation of a punishing fight with
one's body via workout machines. The Life Support environment doesn't
mirror our imperfections or show any judgement. But there is,
nevertheless, an uneasy dimension to the atmosphere. The machines
exhibit a strange antipathy toward the humans, who are passive and
lifeless, so that the poetic mood invoked overall is tainted by more
than just its quasi-organic fishy component.

Déjà Vu of fresh water, a nightmare environment
Carmen Gersti and Jeroen Keijser
Mexico and Canada

Fantastical virtual creatures who tell a story of environmental
degradation inhabit this immersive environment, which is presented to
viewers in the format of a three-walled CAVE. The principal characters
are an Art Deco style mermaid and fish, who swim around in a
post-apocalyptic dead and polluted underwater environment. The
participant navigates the environment by wearing a Mad Hatter hat, with
the mermaid hovering close in front of them and fish whizzing by -
which the viewer can choose to kill off. That kind of viewer control
epitomizes the dystopic but also critical tone of the work. The mood is
pessimistic even though the participant interacts with the world as if
it were a game, resulting in a work of satire. Cans of food with
old-fashioned labels that show animal species litter the bottom of the
sea, and participants drop their own can when they leave the
environment as if there is no choice in our world but to litter.

Healing Series
Brian Knep

The visual displays that are projected onto the floor in this series of
three interactive pieces are a direct expression of mathematical
equations, yet the rules that govern them result in a very organic and
human experience. The artist describes the viewer's input as a
wounding, and indeed there is a sense for participants walking across
the projection or placing their bodies on it that they've caused a
laceration in an otherwise very fluid, interlacing pattern. The
algorithms being used are reaction-diffusion equations, a simulation of
how much of the patterning in nature comes about, such as the patterns
and colours on animals and plants. And nature rules here, because the
wounds close over as fast as they are made, a pleasure that incites
viewers to play and explore.

Unending Enclosure
Fernando David Orellana
El Salvador / USA

Technological innovations have brought us many dramatic political and
social transformations; nevertheless, our undeniable initial
tecno-optimism has become transformed into increasing evidence of new
forms of control and power in modern society. New social paradigms are
created, thus generating a new psyche derived from this technological
world. By using robots instead of humans as the affected objects of
study, Unending Enclosure tries to reveal this future, but in a
tormented way. The robots are imprisoned in wooden columns, living in a
climate of constant fear and distrust. By means of a small vertical
window they can see out and we can see them as they execute paranoid
movements and convulsions, similar to the characteristics of living
beings.  A human, from outside this prison, can approach one of the
robots and it will generate sounds and vibrations that we could
understand as rudimentary forms of communication. But it is just a
stupid bot, revealing future states of paranoia. It is questionable
that robots will fear, but evident that a technological paranoia
exists. In this way the author attempts to simulate or synthesize
social behaviours in today's digital world, transferring the anxiety
but also the curiosity of human beings, and raising again the question
of who is controlling who.

Quorum Sensing
Chu-Yin Sen
Taiwan, lives in Paris

The title of the interactive installation Quorum Sensing refers to a
communication phenomenon in bacterial colonies, which the artist
translates into the idea of collective action on the part of a group of
spectators. Bacteria coordinate individual behaviours through
pheromones. Viewers of the installation gather on a sensitive carpet
placed underneath a projection coming from above; as each additional
person joins the group, the shifting shape they collectively form
reveals more of the projected image of a colony of virtual creatures.
This virtual living world is based on alife principles that include
evolution through genetic algorithms and nurturing from a substrate
based on cellular automata. But it also has some more purely biological
ideas built into it: for example, its colony of graphical entities
regenerates by feeding from the trace elements of dead creatures.
Viewers don't see these functional strategies, but they experience an
ebb and flow of the projected image that metaphorically suggests cycles
of the natural world.


Ambiente de estereo-realidad 2 (8,000 euros)
José Carlos Martinat and Enrique Mayorga

Technological developments are creating human beings absorbed by
digital media that deny natural space (here and now), transforming us
into informed but uncommunicative beings. The individual is 'codified'
in his search for dominance, trying to manage everything that surrounds
him. Thus, it is no longer the individual that reflects the world,
rather the object reflects the individual. Subtly, through our
technologies, the object imposes its presence.  The project
Stereo-Reality Environments tries to question familiar media objects,
making them act ironically.  An inquiring reflection is created through
the actions of apparatuses in space and their relation with their
surrounding elements. This is deployed through the 'robotization' of
various everyday objects, which question individuals and their
indifference to their surroundings.  Stereo-Reality Environments 2
proposes the installation of computers that will act as subversive
editors, independent and autonomous agents that will publish texts from
cyberspace, sending them from the roofs of buildings in the hot spots
of Lima. The messages will be produced by means of information
extracted from the Internet. Local newspaper headlines from the web are
used as input signals of information that will be processed by means of
an algorithm that relates them to subgroups of data possibilities
extracted from cyberspace. The agents finally publish the information
using an intertextual associative logic. The messages will be printed
and will fall into the streets as flyers, in an attempt to create new
means of awareness or to intervene in the information we usually read
in local media.

IP Poetry (2,000 euros)
Gustavo Romano

Argentinean artist, Gustavo Romano, will use as a point of departure
for new work some concepts he explored in his project "LogOmatic" in
which a type of automaton recites texts based on images of pre-recorded
Spanish phonemes. For his new project, Gustavo intends to develop both
software and hardware that will, using texts selected from the Internet
as raw material, generate automatic poetry to be recited by
poet-automatons. These automatons, called IP Bots, recite the poetry
created by his software employing a series of poetry-generating rules.
In order to develop this software Gustavo will have the cooperation of
writer Belén Gache, who has published numerous essays on literature,
visual arts and poetry. The IP Bots will ironically emulate heads
having mouths comprised of loudspeakers housing LCD screens, and eyes
replaced by network connections and wires.


The Jury would like to award a special mention to the pioneering work
of the Critical Art Ensemble (USA) in the field of art and artificial
life. We support the freedom of artists and scientists to collaborate
in a critical context that helps our society understand the
implications of research into biotechnology.

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.