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The pieces in the Healing series explore interaction and integration: the changes, both destructive and regenerative, that happen when things interface with each other. They are interactive floor projections with patterns that change in response to visitors. When visitors walk across, the patterns pull away, creating
wounds. When left alone, the patterns grow to cover these wounds. In each of the pieces, however the patterns grow back in different ways.
This work is related to the research being done on artificial intelligence and artificial life, but the path and the goal are different. Most explorations in these fields attempt to create human-like intelligence and behaviour, and in so doing they use more and more complex algorithms and techniques. In contrast, with these pieces I am focusing on the complexity possible with very simple rules. The patterns and their growth are completely emergent phenomena; they arise from the mathematical equations that the software simulates. The basis for these equations comes from biological and chemical models of molecular interactions, interactions that are at the core of all living things. By amplifying them and making them visible and accessible, they become metaphors for human behaviour and interaction.
These pieces are not life-forms, but they exhibit life-like behaviours, behaviours that are simple in their goals—to grow—but complex and subtle in their realization—how the piece actually grows and reacts to visitors. Visitors quickly understand how the pieces react to them, but the subtlety creates many possible, often surprising, interactions. Visitors enjoy playing with the pieces and exploring new ways of interacting with them. They experiment and watch and learn from each other. The pieces encourage them to interact not only with the carpet but with each other.
Healing 1 looks like a glowing carpet or mat with a unique organic pattern. When it encounters a foreign body, such as a gallery visitor, the pattern on it pulls away, creating a wound. When the foreign body leaves, the pattern heals itself and the wound closes but the sides of the wound never actually touch. A scar remains—a memory of the interaction between the visitor and the mat. Over time the scar may be eradicated, but it has a permanent effect on the pattern's growth. At any moment the pattern is the result of both the underlying algorithms and all the interactions that have occurred up until that moment.
Healing 2 looks like a carpet or mat with a softly glowing skin. When it encounters a foreign body, such as a gallery visitor, the skin pulls away, creating a wound. When the foreign body leaves, the skin slowly heals itself, distilling the wound down to its essence and eventually removing all traces of the interaction.
Healing 3 looks like a carpet or mat filled with an organic pattern of glowing dots. When it encounters a foreign body, such as a gallery visitor, the dots pull away, creating a wound. When the foreign body leaves, the dots spontaneously generate in the open space, quickly and violently covering the naked areas. The piece never looks the same twice; at any moment the pattern is the result of both the underlying algorithms and all the interactions that have occurred up until that moment.
Healing Pool uses custom algorithms to create a glowing pool of organic patterns on the floor. Left alone, the patterns slowly pulsate and shift over the course of each day. When a person walks across the piece the patterns tear apart and rebuild themselves, but never exactly as before. The change is similar to a scar left behind when a wound heals. Thus the pool holds a history, or memory, of all the interactions that have occurred since the piece was first turned on.
Like the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, this project serves as a type of memorial, a constantly evolving record of change that honours the minuscule ways in which the slightest interactions—no matter how small or unintentional—have some impact. It is also an examination of how each person is, like the pool, a manifestation of everything that came before.
This project was generously supported by both the Creative Capital Foundation and the MacDowell Colony.
|INFLeXions No. 4 (Dec. 2010)
Transversal Fields of Experience