Beyond Digital Towards Biological (2017)
By Laura Beloff, Jonas Jørgensen, Stig Anton Nielsen, David Kadish, and Stavros Didakis.
Description: The installation constitutes a hybrid ecology or proto-environment, and explores the boundaries between different concepts of life – from artificial chemical life, to biological life, and computational life in silico. Hanging robots deliver fluids that initiate or nurture artificial chemical life-processes in a dialogue with soft robotic elements that embody life-like qualities on the scale of humans and animals and intermingle with plant life. Our research and practice seeks to question different taxonomies of life, both artificial and natural. Through the installation we enable conditions for a wide spectrum of life-forms to assemble into novel configurations with unique and emergent dynamics.
Exhibited at Chronus Art Center (Shanghai) December 2017.
Tales of C (2017-2018)
Tales of C activates a cultural imaginary about cephalopods (the molluscan class that counts the squid, cuttlefish, octopus, and nautilus) reconstructed from a selection of key texts. It weaves an unstable narrative that occasionally unmasks uncanny overlaps between cultural perceptions of cephalopods and fears voiced about computational media technologies.
Cephalopods are polymorphous, they may change shape and adapt their body to specific tasks. Due to these abilities, cephalopods were in Greek mythology associated with a specific ontology and modes of fluid thinking and being characteristic of water deities and the aquatic milieu.
The work consists of an aquarium in which a cephalopod-inspired soft robot resides. It is tethered to an electronic and pneumatic system with a number of wires and tubes. The robot moves and emits light at different intensities and tones. The mechanical noise of an electrical pump can be heard when the morphology is inflated and moves to the surface of the tank. Interchangeably with this noise a synthetic voice contributes narration generated by a C++ program. The voiceover is composed of fragments drawn from a curated repository of stored text files containing excerpts from fiction, science papers, anthropological texts, news stories, media theory, and media philosophy. Quotes from these sources are interspersed with text that the program continuously retrieves in real-time from social media posts (through an R script that is running on the laptop, which stores Twitter tweets to a text file). The fragments that are read aloud are thus akin to a kind of long and short term memories triggered by the robot’s sensor readings (about its origins, kinship, coming into being, and current situation).
Exhibited at: “Vartovs Videnskab: Menneskekropppen 2.0” Vartov, (Copenhagen, April 21, 2017) and “Kulturnatten” the IT Univ. of Copenhagen (October 13, 2017).
More info: J. Jørgensen “Leveraging Morphological Computation for Expressive Movement Generation in a Soft Robotic Artwork.” in: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Movement Computing, 20:1–20:4. MOCO ’17. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2017. doi:10.1145/3077981.3078029.
The Condition (2015-2016)
by Laura Beloff & Jonas Jørgensen
‘The Condition’ interrogates the status of organisms in hybrid conditions that result from the entwinement of technological, economic, biological, and cultural factors. The installation consists of twelve rotation boxes that each house a small cloned Christmas tree. The rotation is governed by a self-organizing map algorithm that takes space weather measurements from a NASA satellite as its input. Plant researchers have shown that when trees are rotating, a micro-gravity condition similar to outer space is produced. The work asks what types of organisms will survive in changing environmental conditions? It ironically questions if a Western cultural icon, the Christmas tree, might endure such changes.
The cloned trees used for the installation are of the species Abies Nordmanniana, which has become the preferred Christmas tree for many Europeans. It has gained success through its suitability for growing in the Northern climate and become the economically most important species in Danish forestry, with 10 million trees produced annually. Currently, this species is also being developed through cloning to yield a mass production of trees that all share the same genetic code that produces trees consumers find aesthetically pleasing.
‘The Condition’ explores the adaptability of organisms to changed living conditions, and the messy web of hybrid agencies that emerge when a culturally and technically defined biological species is further embedded in an infrastructure consisting of robotics, AI, and information technology. As the artists behind this work, we have created an artificial environment for a small forest of trees, and in a way continued the process put forward by industry and science when the species was brought from Caucasus to the Danish fields, and, more recently, when cloning methods for a profitable mono-culture production were envisioned. The experiment points towards a present and future that is forming at the intersection of technological and biological evolution and human intervention.
Exhibited at: Kunsthall Grenland (Porsgrunn, Norway), Nikolaj Kunsthal (Copenhagen, Denmark), Forum Box (Helsinki, Finland)
The work was recommended for the STARTS Prize 2018 (Grand prize of the European Commission honoring Innovation in Technology, Industry and Society stimulated by the Arts) by one of the award advisors.
More info: “The Condition. Towards Hybrid Agency” in: ISEA 2016 Hong Kong CULTURAL R>EVOLUTION: Proceedings of the 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art. School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, p. 14-19. (ISEA 2016 Proceedings).