Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (MIT Press)
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Artificial life, or a-life, is an interdisciplinary science focused on artificial systems that mimic the properties of living systems. In the 1990s, new media artists began appropriating and adapting the techniques of a-life science to create a-life art; Mitchell Whitelaw's Metacreation is the first detailed critical account of this new field of creative practice.A-life art responds to the increasing technologization of living matter by creating works that seem to mutate, evolve, and respond with a life of their own. Pursuing a-life's promise of emergence, these artists produce not only artworks, but generative and creative processes: here creation becomes metacreation.Whitelaw presents a-life art practice through four of its characteristic techniques and tendencies. "Breeders" use artificial evolution to generate images and forms, in the process altering the artist's creative agency. "Cybernatures" form complex, interactive systems, drawing the audience into artificial ecosystems. Other artists work in "Hardware," adapting Rodney Brooks's "bottom-up" robotics to create embodied autonomous agencies. The "Abstract Machines" of a-life art de-emphasize the biological analogy, using techniques such as cellular automata to investigate pattern, form and morphogenesis.In the book's concluding chapters, Whitelaw surveys the theoretical discourses around a-life art, before finally examining emergence, a concept central to a-life, and key, it is argued, to a-life art.
describe the genesis of these forms: he argued that although the process of guided selection feels creative, “what you are really doing is ﬁnding the creature, for it is, in a mathematical sense, already sitting in its own place in Biomorph Land.”41 Given its importance in the development of the genre, Dawkins’s system merits some attention; in particular, it oﬀers a way to address When considering the technical details, however, the biological resemblance wavers: every level of this simulation
proposed IKI-IKI Phone system, where users would nurture, share, and breed artiﬁcial pets through their mobile phones, creating a new wireless cybernature.9 72 become one member of an ecological system, not merely a lone wandering self in a space of Euclidean objects.11 These systems mark a merger of two imaginary spaces: the collective imagination of cyberspace — the spatialization of interactive electronic communication — joins with a-life’s own imaginary inner space, the simulation or
catch its prey — is determined by its combination of body parts. Through trial and error or by copying the world’s most successful creatures, a user can create the perfect predator from the right combination of fast wheels, savage mouth, and keen eyes. However, some creatures are born rather than made; pairs sharing the same torso may mate, and in this genderfree world the creature that initiates the sexual encounter will invest a portion of its energy in bearing a child. The new creature
dynamic, communicative, or even organic multiplicity — but a multiplicitous whole — emerges from a transparently technological structure. Where the multiplicity of the bottom-up approach is contained, as in Brooks’s robots, in a single mobile agent, these works operate quite diﬀerently. In Penny’s Petit Mal, in particular, the concrete multiplicity of sensors, motors, structural components, and software is fused very deliberately into a form that is interpreted as a single agent, a single
are no longer creating a work, we are creating creation. . . . We are able to bring forth . . . results . . . which go beyond the intentions of their originators, and this in inﬁnite number.” 18 With related work by Edward Ihnatowicz, Tsai Wen-Ying, and cybernetician Gordon Pask, and the animist kinetics of Robert Breer and Jean Tinguely, this period produced a strain of cyborg art that was very much concerned with the shared circuits within and between the living and the technological. A line