Week 7 Artificial Life

In the reading this week, I am most intrigued by the idea of Artificial Life. As the words art and life are involved in one term, Artificial Life explores the grey area that “to understanding life by attempting to abstract the fundamental dynamical principles underlying biological phenomenon, and recreating these dynamics in other physical media.” (303, Wilson) The concept of Artificial Life reminds me of the artist Marcel Duchamp, whom was not interested in “retinal art” that only impressed people visually. Duchamp established the “readymade,” the manufactures goods rather than handmade artworks, at the exhibition to struck the minds of the viewers by questioning their concept of art. Though artificial life works are being seen as non-art works, both “share common interests in simulating life” (309, Wilson)

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The interactivity with artificial life interests me the most. In the project, Las Meninas by Michael Tolson, he allows the audience to feed the organisms by manipulating a sensor. The project has two observation stations that are supposed to lure the participants into voyeuristic behavior. The artificial creatures can be fed with a sensor from a low podium and the result can be viewed through a pair of binoculars that are facing the reflection of the monitor. Las Meninas is a piece about intimacy. It explores the observers themselves through their interactions with active, living space. It has two views of the same virtual space. This virtual space exists in a computer that is running an artificial life ecosystem. This system is full with creatures that have evolved within it and the observers take the role to co-evolve the creatures. The observer will see simultaneously the creatures moving around in their virtual world and his own hand with the sensor. The sensor will determine where and when food is fed to the creature.

We see the similar concept in Karl Sims’s project, Galapagos. He created organic-looking 3-D forms. Sims let his participants choose which entities are most interesting and have those traits develop. He used his artificial life work to perform an artificial evolution. Within his project, he engaged his audience as the breeder. He hoped that someday the exhibit will be comparable the Galapagos Islands where Darwin developed his theory. Wilson highlightens in his book that “ Artificial Life’s interest in evolution in detail…and that biology function as a “readymade” a cultural construct rather than some essential truth about nature.” (310, Wilson) Through artificial life works, human beings got a space to reflect and develop on our own species.





– Wei- Yin (Annie), Cheng


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