LIFE 6.0, 2003
The jury for the Life 6.0 competition in Madrid – Daniel Canogar, Chris Csikszentmihalyi, Machiko Kusahara, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Jane Prophet and Nell Tenhaaf – reviewed 71 artworks that utilise artificial life concepts and techniques. These pieces were pre-selected from a record number of 89 submissions received from 21 countries. The Telefonica Foundation in Spain will give out the following awards:
SHARED FIRST PRIZE (4,250 euros each)
One of the most unsettling aspects of molecular biology is the ability to manipulate behaviour. Many experiments have shown that the behaviour of one animal may be placed into another. For instance, in 1999 neuroscientists altered a mouse by inserting a gene from a prairie vole, a different animal known for its fidelity and sociability. The normally solitary mice now showed the social behaviours of the gregarious prairie vole. While most of us have no idea how to even think about these issues, France Cadet has undertaken her own experiment in signification. Her Dog[LAB] project is a monstrous hybrid, merging children’s toys, hacked electronics, and social and political concerns into robotically enacted dramas. Cadet performed surgery on several robotic dogs, customized their forms, and reprogrammed them with unusual behaviours. Her new dogs are genetically manipulated animal combinations, plastic chimeras. For instance, one is the “ultimate” domestic pet, a mixture of equal parts cat and dog. This earnest Frankenpet alternately wags its tail playfully, grooms itself, does feline stretches and, eventually, falls asleep and dreams dog dreams. Another is a cowdog, and as a result is prone to robotic BSE, twitching and collapsing while whining like a sad puppy. Cadet’s work reminded some of the jurors that the more life-like robots become, the more prone they’ll be to neurosis and illness. We all admired the unusual way that Cadet addressed weighty issues of science and society while keeping her tongue well in cheek.
“The Central City”
This net art work, made over four years, is an impressive collection of interconnected environments created using generative procedures. The focus is on urban environments, resulting in a vast web site of interconnected idealised spaces and polyphonic neighbourhoods. These environments explode with ideas from art, architecture, design and urbanism. Visuals from live web cams and pre-recorded audio are controlled by the user to make spaces that fragment and are reconstituted in real time. The ever-changing nature of the city is foregrounded in the way that its features flow through the site; streets and buildings seem to change right before our eyes in visual compositions reminiscent of Dziga Vertov’s avant-garde documentary “The Man with the Movie Camera.” Users of The Central City interact with the piece by selecting from multiple menus based on an iconic language. Starting from recognizable imagery that is either pre-recorded or live, viewers can morph images and algorithmically change sounds. Through these processes, ordered and grid-like cities slip into disorder, and surveillance systems are subjected to processes that make them “bleed”, that “torment” them and subject them to “earthquakes”. The sophistication and subtlety of the image generation reflects Stanza’s earlier paintings, and provide a sophisticated, adult alternative to SimCity. The user is encouraged to take a painterly approach to image transmutation, resulting in a subtle and ironic convergence of art and civic issues.
THIRD PRIZE (1,500 euros)
Ethan Bordeaux, Ben Recht, Noah Vawter and Brian Whitman.
The project Concrete Music gives life to a song. Instead of a permanent recording on a CD that is reproduced exactly every time you press “play”, this musical composition is in constant evolution. Its creators developed a hardware music processor from commodity hardware, an algorithmic music language robust enough to last 30 years, and a synthesis framework capable of composing timeless textures. Starting with initial parameters of tone, texture waves, rhythm and critical duration, the song composes itself by gradually mutating from its base state. Because of this large scale of compositional drift, only time will tell what the music will grow into as it progresses. Concrete Music also has a sculptural component: the generator of this algorithmic music is encased in rough-hewn concrete. This unusual shell appears to guarantee its existence for some time, as if it were a time capsule that could be found and listened to in a remote future. The song in this sound sculpture acquires a life of its own and refuses to die, and, in this way, Concrete Music materializes one of humanity’s great longings: immortality throughout time. At the same time, it serves as a nod to the “musique concrete” of the 50s.