photo by unknown
What would have happened if your great-grandfather hadn’t laid eyes upon that beautiful woman he wound up marrying? Or even worse, if he had gone for her voluptuous friend instead? The ever-so-long chain of coincidences or flukes that has led to our existence is under the magnifying glass at Arts Santa Mònica’s exhibition ‘Living Systems’.
On display are six installations by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, creators of interactive art that applies principles of living system-theory related to ecology, artificial life and complexity science. Sounds complicated? Well, it is. But it is also good fun, especially since you hold the cards in their virtual world.
Using devices as diverse as keyboards, touch screens, a flashlight or your bare hands, the installations allow you to create life in the form of gaudy creatures and trailing plants. These are placed in closed ecosystems where you can observe or interfere with their evolution. The installation A-Volve serves as a good example. Using a touch screen, you give birth to a virtual three-dimensional creature that moves in a water-filled glass pool where only the fittest will survive to mate and reproduce. The creatures interact among themselves but also with visitors by reacting to hand movements in the water. If you attempt to catch one, it will try to flee, but stay still if it gets caught. None of the creatures are predesigned; they are all born exclusively in real time and their destiny is sealed by evolutionary and human decisions.
In fact, without human interaction nothing exists; it is the visitors who regulate and modify the landscape of living beings and the biodiversity proposed by the artists. You watch over the growth and health of an ecosystem and you also decide when it’s time for it to die.
By looking at how simpler particles develop into increasingly complex structures and whole systems, Sommerer and Mignonneau ultimately bring up the question of how life emerged on earth in the first place. Thus, their playful installations not only enable you to experiment with virtual fate but make you realise how lucky you are that your great-grandmother knew how to move those hips.
Arts Santa Mònica, until September 25th, 2011