Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in |

Thomas Ray’s Tierra was a defining moment in the history of both a-life research and art, the original digital artificial life ecosystem, exhibiting evolution, hybridisation and competition. As such it was a cause celebre in the early 1990s among the emerging Artificial Life community. Tierra is now about two decades old, and is a defining moment in the history of both a-life research and art. As such, it has become a touchstone for the development of evolving digital ecosystems by several generations of artist/programmers. Matthew Warshaw’s artificial life simulator modifies Ray’s Tierra principles by attributing input, memory and output data to the “cells” in the system, enabling the data to travel across the cells, and then outputting the resulting “creatures” in the animation software Maya. The simulation output by this system is projected onto a table top, where it resembles a Petri dish filled with shimmering bacteria-like shapes. The simulator consists of over one thousand cells and each cell glows, changes colours and visibly shoots information to neighbouring cells. At the same time that the viewer is mesmerized by this sensory display, a monitor on the wall shows a parallel version of the simulator that is focused on its structure, displaying the output data from each cell in the form of a wireframe version of the scene that is unfolding on the table. The combination of sensory and analytical representations enables the viewer to experience fundamental a-life principles in an immediate and integral form. The dual view also provokes fundamental questions about the experientiality of computational and electronic systems – What am I looking at, what is the intention behind what is visible? This installation proposes that it is possible to visualize any digital procedure in numerous ways, each with its own narrative.

About the author

I was born in London, UK in 1985 As my early qualifications reflect, I have always been interested in art and science. These interests led me to begin studying a degree in electronic engineering at York University. Despite enjoying courses on programming and logic, overall I found the course uncreative and unfulfilling. I made the decision to apply for the prestigious University of the Arts. Here I would continue developing my aesthetic and scientific pursuits. During my 4 years, I have continued to learn new programming languages (Python, Actionscript, PHP…) and new programmes (Flash, Maya, After Effects, Dreamweaver…). My final work for St. Martins, which I am entering, was nominated for the Apple Digital Innovation Award