Decordova Exhibit Text

Make Your Move: Interactive Computer Art was organized by Associate Curator Nick Capasso with assistance from Adjunct Curator for Media Arts George Fifield and Curatorial Intern Gillian Nagler. Make Your Move is presented in conjunction with the Boston Cyberarts Festival, May 1-15, 1999.

Karl Sims
Galápagos, 1997

How To Interact With This Installation:

As you approach Galápagos, you are confronted by twelve computer screens. Each screen contains the image of a single colorful abstract "creature" in motion. These virtual organisms exist for you to breed or eliminate. You may participate in this process as follows:

1. Step on the sensor in front of the most intriguing or aesthetically satisfying individual creature.

2. Stand back while the other eleven fade away, and a new generation of creatures is born. This new population will bear visual qualities and behavioral features derived from the one you chose, but random genetic mutations are introduced.

3. Repeat this process by again selecting an individual that you prefer. As this cycle continues, more interesting, complex, and specialized creatures can be created.

You may also breed multiple creatures by stepping on more than one sensor. All the creatures selected will survive, and their genetic material will be combined to determine the nature of the next generation. However, for each surviving creature there is one less screen available for new offspring, so progress may be slower if too many are chosen at once. For this reason it is best if not more than 3 people are making selections at the same time.

Two additional step sensors are located to one side of the installation. The "Previous" command recalls creatures from past generations, and "Start Over" causes a new evolution to begin from scratch with simple randomly generated creatures. Each new evolution will generate results that have never been seen before.

Galápagos - a reference to the contained ecosystem where Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution of species - is a machine of life and death that allows you to play Darwin's god, and through selective breeding determine the survival of the aesthetically fittest. For this installation, artist Karl Sims wrote computer animation software that mimics genetic code. He simultaneously questions and widens the boundaries of human artistic creativity by setting up a process in which the artist, the viewer, and the computer all participate in the breeding and evolution of images. No one player can determine the ultimate nature of the artwork. Galápagos also probes the borders between the animate and the inanimate, biology and technology, abstraction and representation, and artistic will and chance. Moreover, it points the way to a future where genetics and technology will increasingly mingle.

Be sure to also see Karl Sims: A Video Retrospective in the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Gallery, 2nd Floor.

Karl Sims is a media artist/computer programmer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received an M.S. in Visual Studies from MIT's Media Laboratory Computer Animation Research Group, and a B.S. from MIT in Life Sciences. Sims is Founder and President of GenArts, Inc., a company that develops visual effects software for the motion picture industry. In 1998, Sims was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for "individuals who show exceptional merit and promise for enhanced creative work."

Gary Oberbrunner developed the network, step sensor, and systems software for Galápagos.

The initial version of Galápagos was supported by the NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC), Tokyo, Japan. Genetic Arts, Inc., provided this new version using PCs. Thanks to Bill Gardner for help with the audio (step sensor) software. Thanks also to Diamond Multimedia.

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