material: software for Mac OS X / linux
technique: screen or projection, touchscreen
online: demo movie
Computers are powerful machines to harness artificial evolution for creating visual images. To achieve this we need to design genetic algorithms and evolutionary programs.
Evolutionary programs like Formulae E-volver allow images to be "bred", rather than be designed by hand. Through a process of variation and selection,
each new generation of images is increasingly well adapted to the desired "fitness" criteria. This project is inspired by Genetic Images, a work of
Karl Sims from 1993.
The image generating Formulae E-volver software is developed by the artists. The building blocks of the software are all kinds of basic
mathematical operators. The computer can compose an infinite amount of valid formulas out of these elements. Each time, a small set of formulas is composed
and visualised on the screen. The viewer compares these animated images with each other and reviews them. In turn, the software responds on those reviews when it
composes new formulas. Formulas that were displayed on the screen for a long time have more chance to crossbreed, whereby visual properties are mixed and passed on to
future generations. The process begins with a "primordial soup" which yields relatively simple images. On the basis of personal preferences of the user, this gradually
evolves into complex intriguing animations.
The process of evolution takes place via the touch screen that displays the animations of four different formulas simultaneously. The least interesting animation is
voted out and makes way for a new animation. The computer keeps the fitness scores of the corresponding formulas. A formula that survives multiple generations, gets a
higher score than a formula that is immediately voted out. When composing new formulas the system takes into account the fitness scores: formulas with high scores are
more likely to be elected to the formation of new formulas. Repeatedly crossbreeding and mutating the "better" formulas, leads to increasingly long formulas because
their visual complexity is more appealing than the simple images at the beginning of the process. The formula with the highest score is displayed on the big screen. From
time to time the top score will be replaced, when the evolutionary process produces higher scores. That is, until the program "resets", which happens when a
predetermined number of votes has been cast. And then the whole process begins again. Again a primordial soup from which quite different formulas can come forward.
Formulae E-volver includes an unusual collaboration between man and machine. On the one hand it provides a cultivation machine and on the other hand a human
"gardener". The combination of human and machinal properties is leading to results that neither of them could create on their own. The machine has no notion of the
aesthetic qualities, and for humans the development of complex mathematical formulas is almost inimitable.
Similar concepts and techniques are used in the interactive artwork
in assignment of the LUMC Leiden and SKOR Amsterdam.