The increasing presence and sophistication of simulated virtual life-forms and characters in our lives, from robotic toys to games to chatbots, along with real time representations of remote persons as avatars, present novel and emerging social issues, raising questions regarding the ontological significance of such relationships with respect to conventional relationships between human, and between human and animal. Tardigotchi concentrates these issues in a provocative artifact which contains a virtual pet and a live, if small pet, in a combined physical and digital environment. The live ‘tardi’ (a common microorganism measuring half a millimeter in length) and the virtual ‘gotchi’ interact with each other, and with the outside world via data communications and physical feeding. Reflecting on his relationship with this hybrid companion, the artist playfully wonders whether biological life makes a difference to his interest in sustaining it.
About the authors
SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmosphere and Mass Production) is the collaborative effort of artists Douglas Easterly and Matt Kenyon. Their work focuses on critical themes addressing the effects of global corporate operations, mass media and communication, military-industrial complexes, and general meditations on the liminal area between life and artificial life. SWAMP has been making work in this vein since 1999 using a wide range of media, including custom software, electronics, mechanical devices, and often times working with living organisms. Easterly is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director of Digital Media Design at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Kenyon is an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Arts at Penn State University in the United States.
Tiago Rorke is a designer currently working as a teaching fellow at Victoria University of Wellington. His degree, from Victoria University of Wellington, also includes coursework at Carnegie Mellon where he studied with Osman Khan and Golan Levin. Tiago’s studio practice reflects a keen interest in programming and electronics, especially projects that deal with ubiquitous computing technologies.