Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in |

In Performative Ecologies, Ruairi Glynn takes an architects view of interactive installations as responsive, adaptive environments. While employing a now conventional array of components – motorized structures and lighting elements, camera based sensing, real-time computing and human visitors – Performative Ecologies moves beyond conventional behavioral modalities in provocative ways. A number of separate, autonomous agents, comprising a sensing ‘head’ and a behaving ‘tail’ detect viewers and perform for them, gauging their success in capturing the attention of their chosen subject. The sensing system deploys camera based machine vision, not simply to detect or track the presence of a subject, but to deduce attentiveness. The agents compete for the subjects attention, becoming increasingly ‘expressive’ – even ‘overacting’. The behaviors of the agents are not pre-scripted, but are originated by the agents and are constantly evolving through genetic algorithms which rate each behavior against the attention of the viewer as a fitness criterion. The agents also check their success against the success of their fellow devices. Through this combination of physical manifestation and real-time computational techniques, Performative Ecologies moves beyond more simple reactive paradigms which have become standard fare in interactive installation, but which amount, most commonly, to little more than virtual button pushing. Here Glynn succeeds in three related goals which together are something of a holy grail for researchers in robotic arts – to develop a system in which  agents change and develop as a result of their experience; to share their knowledge with each other; and to make that learning and exchange directly and immediately sensible by humans. The artist notes: ‘Each operates autonomously, but as part of the larger ecology, share their knowledge and contributes to the performative qualities of the environment as a whole’.

About the author

Operating between the fields of architecture and digital media, I build reactive and interactive installations & sculptures exploring an understanding of interaction based on ecological and social models of evolution, and conversation. Through this I examine new forms of human and technological interaction based on participation, exchange and negotiation rather than more traditional models of human computer interaction in which human is master and technology is slave.

Trained as an architect following an earlier career in interactive arts, I currently split my practice between production of public art installations, teaching, curation and writing. Over the past three years I have built the largest online resource dedicated to spatial interaction   where you can find many of my works and that of other artists, architects and designers who have inspired me. Just as the work I present here in this submission explores conversation. My practice is about not just producing my work in isolation but rather forming it out of a continual conversation with a range of disciplines and practioners from material science through to product and sculptural design, through to mobile robotics and kinetic architecture.

I am a Lecturer in Adaptive Architecture and Computing at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and a Lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of Arts London on the MA Textile Futures and MA Industrial Design programmes. I have also guest lectured, run workshops and been a visiting critic to architecture, art and interaction design schools including the Delft faculty of Architecture (Netherlands), the Institute of Digital Art and Technology (UK), the Interactive Institute (Sweden), the Angewandte Vienna (Austria), the Architectural Association (UK), EID Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the University of Sydney (Australia).