Film (40Mb Quicktime)
“The role of the architect... I think, is not so much to design a building
or city, as to catalyse them: to act that they may evolve.” Gordon Pask
Performative Ecologies has recieved a number of international art and design awards including at the 11th Annual "Concurso Internacional de Arte y Vida Artificial", ARCO Madrid Art Fair. and the 'European Top Talent Award for Digital Media', Europrix, 2007. It has been exhibited in Seoul, Sao Paulo, Madrid, London, Vienna & Graz. It will next be presented at Beall Center for Art & Technology, LA.
Image of Performative Ecologies in a a linear arrangement from the Emergencia Exhibition, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo, Brazil 2008
Investigating gestural forms of dialogue between inhabitants and an evolving environment, Performative Ecologies is a kinetic 'conversational'
environment, which examines what it means both to observe, and to be observed by machines. It considers in the light of developments in computer
vision, sensing and artificial intelligence, how an 'intelligent' architecture can discuss its behaviour in relation to the goals and behaviours of the world
Within the darkened installation space, a dance evolves as a community of autonomous but very sociable robotic sculptures perform with their
illuminated tails for inhabitants. Rather than being pre-choreographed, these creatures propose and negotiate with their audience, learning how best
to attract and maintain their attention. Using a genetic algorithm to evolve performances, and facial recognition to assess attention levels (fitness), the
individual dancers learn from their successes and failures. As they gain experience, they share their knowledge with the larger ecology, dancing to
each other, exchanging their most successful techniques, and negotiating future performances collaboratively.
An ecology constructed by both robotic sculptures and the human inhabitants through an intertwining of networks rich in circularities of reciprocal
gestures and adaption. A dance is formed in which individual participants both human and robotic operate as performative agents, each acting
independently, but continually negotiating their choreography with each other. This social system revisits some of the concepts first considered in
Gordon Pask’s art work, the ‘Colloquy of Mobiles’, exhibited at Cybernetic Serendipity (ICA 1968). Like the colloquy of mobiles, it is an environment of
active conversational participants, a physically constructed embodiment of his Conversation Theory, unlike it, this work uses new technologies
unavailable to Pask and explores how Pask’s ideas can be extended using contemporary digital technology.
For more detals see my Paper 'Conversational Environments Revisted' Awarded best paper at the 19th European Meeting of Cybernetics & Systems Research, Vienna, Austria 2008.
Image of Performative Ecologies in a a square arrangement from the VIDA 11.0 Exhibition, Madrid, Spain, 2009
The installation’s physical composition of 4 independently responsive sculptures is built from perspex, steel & aluminum. Each one is actuated by servos; 2 in the ‘head’, 1 in their ‘tails’ & 1 up at ceiling level which orientates their body. Each tail has RGB lighting embedded within them so that they can perform the entire wide range of colour and lighting effects. Able to rotate 360 degrees, they each occupy 1.5m in diameter and are able to
hang facing their audience at an average eye height.
It has been exhibited in near dark rooms to act as contrast to the brightly illuminated tails. Alternatively Performative Ecologies has also been presented in day light when the installation was shown at the Kunsthaus gallery in Graz, Austria. It was strategically positioned on the ground floor of the Gallery looking out at the people walking by on the street. In this setting the object's contextually adapted to their environment learning not just how to attract people within the gallery but also out on the street, almost beckoning them to come inside. The vision of the robots was additionally transmitted onto BIX, the Kunsthaus gallery’s large media facade, presenting the activity of the installation out over the city.
Image of two 'Dancers' within Performative Ecologies, Prototype 2007
The performances are generated from a gene pool of evolving dances functioning in a Genetic Algorithm (G.A.) which uses facial recognition to assess attention levels & orientation of the audience before & after each performance as a way of assessing & assigning a fitness value to each new choreography. Over time successful maneuvers are kept & recombined to produce new performances while less effective ones are discarded. Mutation in the G.A. fluctuates based on how successful the sculptures become. If they get a lot of attention, mutation levels rise as if they are getting arrogant & as a result become more experimental.
When there are no people around, they turn to each other & teach their most successful performances to each other negotiate new performances together. They take the suggestions of their surrounding partners & compare their gene pool of performances to their partners suggestions. If they are comparatively similar then they are accepted & replace a chromosome from their own pool. If they are too different they are rejected as if they dislike the partners dance moves.
Currently this is done via a wireless network but it is hoped that in later iterations, it will be possible for the sculptures to use their computer vision systems to interpret each others performances adding interesting potential for degrees of misunderstandings to occur.
The Servos & Lighting are controlled by Arduino microcontrollers receiving instructions from a G.A. running in Processing. Each head has a low light vision camera on board transmitting to facial recognition software built using the openCV library.