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"Artificial Nature"

Haru Ji and Graham Wakefield - PhD students, Media Arts and Technology

"Artificial Nature" is a transdisciplinary research project of creativity in complex systems: in particular we are investigating the aesthetics of world-making through the computational embodiment of generative ecosystems. Our motivation is to develop a deeper understanding of emergence and creativity as a form of art, study and play, by taking inspiration from nature's creativity but recognizing the potential of natural creation beyond the physical. This task is undertaken as a serious academic contribution.

Artificial Nature
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You may remember experiences from your childhood, such as playing with your fingers in the flow of a river, or in the path of small marching insects, to alter their emerging patterns. Such play is a direct interaction with complex systems, provoking deep insights and aesthetically fascinating natural patterns; ludic investigations that may be considered an infinite game¹.

We approach this subject through a trans-disciplinary research project drawing upon bio-inspired system theories and the aesthetics of computational world-making, incorporating the development of engaging immersive ecosystems as art installations. Our motivation is to develop a deeper understanding of emergence and creativity as a form of art, study and play, by taking inspiration from nature's creativity while recognizing the potential of natural creation beyond the known and the physical.

Installation

The installation consists of a projection of a virtual world with touch-screen, video and audio interfaces. The virtual world is a visualization of information flow in open systems interweaving geological, physico-chemical and biological strata. Within this world virtual lifeforms evolve and grow. Spectators can witness, control and create beautiful, complex and generative patterns evolving from the behaviors of the species, as the organisms in turn interact with their dynamic environment. As a spectator gives his/her inputs through the touch screen or other sensors, he/she may change local fields of the environment, landscape or physical laws, and actively observe how the feedback systems produce new behavioral patterns.

Artificial Nature

The consideration of Artificial Nature as a living system with autonomous creative potential calls for a reconsideration of relationships between artwork, spectator and artist. All three living systems work together in the process of emergent creation. The locus of authorship is shared among a less hierarchical assemblage of living systems. Spectators will be conductors or performers playing a generative multi-domain open work. However, the method to conduct or to perform is not direct. The indirection invoked through the emergent environmental feedback of the A-life agencies is crucial to allow the integration between learning, playing and creating.

For more information about the "Artificial Nature" project, visit: artificialnature.mat.ucsb.edu.


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1. Terminology borrowed from James Carse: Finite & Infinite Games. The infinite game is play whose aim is not closure, but continuation.