Within my practice-led research I continue to explore and further ideas from the fields of computer-mediated art and consciousness studies. This has recently developed as a merging of Art and Artificial Intelligence (AI), exampled through two projects currently underway, one Duchampian, the other Darwinian. These two projects share the idea that separate components, which are thematically unified through semantically associative media, can provide new holistic understandings of complex issues. As technologies have developed, interactivity has moved from screen and mouse to the more intuitive approach of sensor enabled physical activity and projection, and from hypermedia software to AI programming.
The Duchamp project: This focuses on his ‘Large Glass’. By applying AI ‘behaviours’ to the objects in this piece, they move towards or away from each other according to their semantic relationships when in close proximity. These ‘flocked’ Duchampian objects more clearly show the ‘families’ of images, texts etc., and the oscillations that occur between them due to the pull of their similar semantic positions. The experiments with semantic media have now extended from the ideas of Duchamp to approach the highly creative ‘big idea’ of evolution through adaptation, in order to respond to Shrewsbury Museum Service’s commission.
The Darwin Project: As part of the national Darwin celebrations underway, Shift-Life was commissioned for exhibit at Shift-Time – a festival of ideas in Shrewsbury, summer 2009. This interactive installation focuses on ‘hands-on’ possibilities for witnessing an evolutionary process in alternate life forms as they struggle to adapt to a volatile environment. AI behaviours were attached to a virtual world of fantasy animated objects featured as 2D ‘jelly sweet’ creatures and ‘pick and mix sweet’ plants. Their self-sustaining world is projected into a wooden box where visitors can cause physical upheavals in their virtual environment, by pouring liquids, hammering and turning lights on and off, to which the bug-like creatures respond instantly.
In moving from Duchamp to Darwin the approach has remained the same in that viewer engagement is paramount and the work is interactive where the participating visitor’s actions and choices contribute to the delivery of the piece’s content. Although there is a facade of entertainment, in that these artworks are quite playful and engaging, the intent remains of harnessing new technologies as creative systems to present and elucidate more complex ideas about art and life.