Re: [-empyre-] Re: Intoducing: Mauro Annunziato & Ken Rinaldo
Thanks to Mitchell for pulling us all together both with his
fantastic book and now this provocative list. I have been reading
with limited bandwidth from hotel modems on the road and I am back
home now and it has been wonderful to read again and reflect back on
the conversation and the quality postings.
My work explores the central idea that technological systems may
learn and recap the evolved wisdom of living systems. Living systems
and their modeling interest me in particular because they show an
intertwined evolved state of existence, which is symbiotic and
emergent. Do we know what that is? Well we call this emergent... and
as Marvin Minsky pointed out in his presentation at Ars Electronica
recently this means there is something we do not understand and yet
we know it is there.
I am interested in artificial life as one category of the study of
non-organic living systems. Some of these I explore as interactive
artworks illustrating the idea that biology and technology are
inevitably symbiotic, and part of a larger law of living systems.
Living systems, through adaptive behavior and evolution, naturally
seek symbiotic relationships with their environment. Our evolving
machines, through mimesis and co-evolution, will continue to evolve
along with us and this for me is an inevitable part of a law of
living systems both organic and non-organic. I term this technology
recapitulating phylogeny. As microprocessors physically imbed
themselves deeper into our sensorium we must understand the effects
their amplifications and their lens like distortions. Humans are
functioning as an increasing web of matter, energy and information
fields, rippling with trade, invention and emergent consequences. We
are... in our own way.... becoming a biomachinic planet, an
Artificial life is for me just one of many ways of looking at living
systems and trying to understand the structure and organization with
a desire to begin to comprehend the complex manifestations of natural
living systems and their emergent interaction. If we can understand
these things then I suppose I have a romantic hope for some form of
future bio machinic ecology.
It is for these reasons that I choose to utilize robotics and
physical interaction as the behavioral seeds in my work as well as
the interaction with living plants, animals' fish and humans.
Artificial life can both exist as software coded in physical or
virtual spaces but also as wet ware and behavior connections where
living systems are part of the behavioral feedback loop that the
system may bring forth. That is the system may have both artificial
life and actual life as behavioral seeds and as part of the
evolutionary strategy of the system.
Recent work includes:
AUGMENTED FISH REALITY is an interactive installation of rolling
robotic fish-bowl sculptures designed to explore interspecies and
transpecies communication. These could best be termed as
"biocybernetic" sculptures that allow Siamese Fighting fish to use
intelligent hardware and software to move their robotic bowls.
AUTOPOIESIS is an artificial life group of fifteen robotic sculptures
that interact as a group consciousness
and simultaneously interact individually with participants in the
installation. Their language is telephone tones.
TECHNOLOGY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY Juxtaposes tree structures in
tubefex worms, roots, very large-scale integrated circuits, and
functioning infrared sensors to highlight tree structures as the
primordial intelligent forms of the universe.
THE FLOCK is a group of interactive sound sculptures that exhibit
behaviors analogous to the flocking found in natural groups such as
birds, schooling fish, or flying bats 1994.
CYBER-SQUEEK TM sound and light sculptures spoof the emergence of
machine intelligence in which electronics integrated with lifelike
forms, have begun to squeak their first words.
It's my pleasure to introduce two more guest a-life artists to the
list. Mauro Annunziato and Ken Rinaldo represent some of the diversity
within a-life art, as well as some of the commonalities. Mauro's work
with "artificial societies" of graphical agents, produces elegant and
intricate two-dimensional images. Ken works in robotic and bio-robotic
sculpture, creating interactive, autonomous, engaging systems which
exemplify his aspirations for a sustainable fusion between biological
and technological systems. I will hand over to them to send opening
statements, and perhaps give a personal perspective on the discussion
I thank Mitchell and all you for invitation to this interesting
discussion about a-life and art.
I am not a critic of this movement, I am just as a "traveller" along
this strange interference area between art and science who imagine
virtual or hybrid (real-virtual) worlds that evocate/arise questions
about our roots/mind/society/future. I try to catch all the stimulus
that science can give me and all the freedom that art can give me
but the science cannot. I hope to give you a little contribution,
please excuse for my clearly not-native English.
Some words about an "opening statement"
My experience with alife started as an error. In 1994, fascinated by
the self-organization effects I found in the "Cretti" of Alberto
Burri, a well known Italian artist (1915-1995, look this image
http://www.francescomorante.it/pag_3/315bc.htm ), after some
tentative with cellulose and Indian ink, I tried to reproduce the
ink fractures on the computer. A lucky conceptual mistake happened;
instead of a mechanic model I made use of an "animistic model".
Inside it, the fractures move autonomously, according to a genetic
code of numeric parameters. Living patterns of filaments were
generated by this experiment: natural, human and artificial shapes,
ancestral dreams. The "organic quality" of the image came from the
dynamical of the whole population of fractures-filaments. In that
years I started the production of a collection of images
("Artificial Societies", www.plancton.com/artsoc/asociety.htm and
www.plancton.com/artsoc/artware2.htm ) which were a fundamental
experience in my path.
All these images starts with a single (or few)
dna/filament/individual and it grows through reproduction
(branching), genetic mutations, clashing. Although, in the building
of this environment, I was driven by purely aesthetic research, it
was surprising to me the incredible potential of these simple
environments to evocate evolution and social behaviour. In the
subsequent years, I continued to evolve genetics, behaviour and
aesthetics of these images, each time trying to push as far as
possible accidental discoveries. In this sense I can say that the
computer was really not only an "instrument" but the real extension
of my mind in a play of "create model - explore model - discovery
exceptions - again modelling exception - come back and restart the
Many times I tried to interpret the content expressed in that
images, but up to now I cannot say what exactly is emerging.
Emergent selection, self-organization, increasing evolutionary
pressure, self-constraining, pioneers and emulators, niches of
evolution, creation of biodiversity, all these concepts are some of
possible readings but many doubts are still without an answer. In
example it is quite strange the development of a social cooperation
during the evolution: groups of individuals evolve towards a shorter
lifetime in order to have a social success as a group. I cannot say
if this is a form of "group selection" or better "a selection driven
by a self-organization principle". In few word, I agree with Paul
(hi Paul !) about the fact that many artists managing these things,
really don't know what is happening "down there".
After this experience, I joined with a research/musician, Piero
Pierucci (co-founder with me and the painter Oscar Gemma de Julio of
the Plancton art group '94), to create an audio-visual interactive
installation named "Relazioni Emergenti" (Emerging Relationships).
In this installation, the previous images were developed dynamically
and visitors can supply a sort of "life whiff" towards the
artificial individuals they approach with their hand/body (difficult
to explain in few words, please see here
www.plancton.com/relem/relemerg.htm ). Others dimensions were added
to the initial project: sound parallel architectures generated by
the living filaments and different emerging relations between real
people and artificial individuals in a hybrid real-virtual ecosystem.
I think the telling of this experience should be enough to explain
how many different ways to the alife are possible and how working
with emergence is far from first use of the computer as a "digital
paintings" ("old-fashion computer art" ?) or "visualizer"
("old-fashion fractal exploration"). This story could give an idea
why we choose the term "Art of Emergence" to identify our work. In
these experiences, the artwork is a generative context of shapes and
reactions that should be able to produce "emergent qualities" during
the evolution process. Tipycally the idea of emergence is connected
with global properties of the artwork due to the chaotic local
interaction of a multidude of elements and interaction with people.
The creative process is a dynamic and dialectical interference
between the artist, the artwork and the visitors in order to drive
an evolutionary aesthetic process. In this context interaction
increases the dimensionality and this gives more chances to the
emergence of not-programmed shapes/evolutions.
You can find several other realizations in the website
www.plancton.com. Maybe the most interesting by the alife point of
view is "E-Sparks" (www.plancton.com/esparks/esparks.htm and
www.plancton.com/papers/evolang.pdf ) that is a still-in-progress
project for the creation of artificial society which develop an
autonomous shared language cross-fertilized by the interaction with
humans. See also "Aurora di Venere", a theatre performance of
dancers and digital entities (www.plancton.com/aurora/aurora.htm ).
You find several papers describing in detail the artist statement,
artworks and realization here: www.plancton.com/papers/papers.htm
Some comment about previous discussion
I read the interesting discussion of this list up to now. Some
questions remains to me still open. A general comment is about
qualitative interpretation of a-life. Obviously this is my
subjective point of view and particularly the point of view is the
"balcony of art" rather that one of the science.
When I think to a-life, basically I am thinking not only to the
"artificial beings" but especially to the human implications, both
in terms of evocation of our evolution/mind either in terms of
expansion of the human in the digital dimension.
What I find interesting is the continuous emotional dance between
something that is alien but maybe is also inside us, between the
future and roots of the humans, between attraction for new life and
ancestral panic about it, and finally positive and negative use of
it (i.e. creativity or military goals).
To me, one the most significant focalisation of the a-life paradigm
is the importance of the SOCIAL CONTEXT. This aspect can be
expressed trough the genetic evolution, the information exchange,
the swarm intelligence. The idea is that qualities like aesthetics,
intelligence, behaviour emerge not as a property of a single, but a
collective property of an interacting-evolving group and their
interaction with the environment. This aspect, that traces the
difference between AI and AL, has many important consequences which
can influence several questions arisen in the discussion.
In example, the idea of "self modifying code" is important but it is
not the only way to the emergence. This idea is not intuitive. Let
to think about the humans: is it usual that a human being change dna
during the life ?
At the contrary, try to imagine "communities of
interacting/reproducing codes" (as usual in multi thread
programming). It is more easy in this case, accept the idea of the
digital evolution as progressive selection/organization of
co-evolving codes. The difference is the "social context", this
makes the difference.
Emergence cannot be in a single "agent", except the case in which
the agent is itself a swarm of sub-agents (maybe this is the case of
CAs or the biological brain). This is the reason why artworks based
on a-life approach can show a dimension which was not so developed
(or at least consciousness) in other forms of art. We could speak of
an "aesthetics of the biodiversity" or "emotion of the
self-organization" (see "Autopoiesis" of Ken Rinaldo) which are
typical in this case.
Finally about authorship (speaking only for me). I am the creator of
the environment, the artist who "puts in act" the process, the
creator of the "initial memes". This is the full authorship I can
claim with my signature on the interactive installations.
For as regard the consequences of this process (the future states
assumed by the artwork in the interaction with people) I only can be
a "contributor" to a process of dissemination/mutation of the memes.
Visitors are both contributors like the hardware (don't forget the
sensors, the body of the sw) and the software iteself (likely it
doesn't got a bank account ;-) ).
On the other hand if I try to have a strong control over the
creations of my creation I destroy the emergence and the beauty of
the creation itself.
Plancton Art Studio
Via Ponton dell'Elce 9, 00061 Anguillara Sabazia, Rome, Italy
Tel. 39-0630484405, 39-069981102, 39-3381699076
Art & Technology
The Ohio State University
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