The idea that art is creating not a static object but a real time process for encounter is a prominent topic at least since the 1960’s of the previous century. What was a distinguishing feature of early interactive, kinetic and cybernetic art at that time, with the advent of the computer soon became a specific trait for what until this day falls under the fuzzy umbrella term of new media art. The (implicit and often explicit) tendency for this development was to get away from the classical product created by artists, towards the creation of systems or processes that the artist sought to develop. The difficult question of objecthood in art became paradoxically even more poignant with this development.
For a work of art has always been dependent on the means of it’s interpretation which is always embedded into a historical process. The idea of art being a production of encounters became even more obvious, when artists were composing ongoing processes, interactive machines or an open situation that is “living” in a real time relation that it might produce with it’s audience.
Similar to recent developments around bio art, systems– or interactive art was drawing heavily on the technology curve. Artists were required to get in touch with methods and practices that were yet related to science to achieve their visions. Technological novelties were in many cases ‘discovered’ by artists before their innovations became translated and incorporated into the very core of our societies, into workplaces, living rooms and schools. Here the technology was to be evaluated, sampled, destroyed or expanded according to the artists ideas with the aim to become the subject of a discussion about it’s purpose and meaning in broader terms.
If this ideal outcome succeeded, however remains to be seen.
What we envisage is a somewhat practical application of these topics, crosscutting a new approach to online gaming and the interaction with living (biological) organisms. Hereby we hope to set up a platform for interactive games in connection with scientific practices where one can study organisms in an environment for realtime interaction.
In this at first glance playful interaction, human behavior is entangled with the behavior of microorganisms. Thus ‘playing’ the respective games means, i.a. to learn about self organizing behavior of the different organisms, observing them, measuring them, seeing how they adapt to new environments, observing their grouping behavior and the like. It also lets us experience how a world might be conceived or structured according to this behavior. To understand about nature as a lively and adaptive system will be one of the main goals to achieve with the online game. Since we think of life’s organisms as being part of a relation, an adaptive process according to the complex environment-organism relation (Umwelt-Organismus-Beziehung) that cannot be reduced to one closed system. We try to understand the behavior as an ongoing process first and secondly as the outcome of a complexity of settings and interrelations.
Rather than controlling a digital puppet (avatar) the digital media here is enabling the player to engage in an ‘relationship’ with entities that will act and react in their own fashion (imagine the relationship a gardener entertains with his plants). Here the digital interface (the net) is just the means to achieve what we conceive as an example of interspecies collaboration. So the digital medium gives way to a pre– and post digital world at once, that can be discovered anew.
The encounter and interaction that we will set up within the frameworks of the games will allow people of all professions (or non of such) to study or experience the workings of nature processes. Interaction is created with the aim to bring about an understanding of the various processes of evolution in an easy and intuitive way.
The somewhat mysterious situation that the scientist has to set up for his work, the very setting of his practice is the bedrock of our project. The laboratory as a means for measurements, tuning the instruments, where the phenomena can be observed and studied will be opened to the public with the bacteria game.
Herein we see a bridge at once to the practice of scientists, as well as to the work of the media artist, especially those working with generative systems and of course biological ones. The set up for the scientific encounter of organisms is the foundation for the work of the “Bio Artist”. While the need to learn about scientific strategies is most important for their respective work, the art work in itself can be a strategy to open this special knowledge to a broader public discourse.
Following this line of thought, topics of complexity or adaptive behavior as addressed in generative–, evolutionary– or bio art are engaging public awareness and ideally might have a transformative potential for our culture as a whole.
Regarding the pending paradigm shift of our digital culture that is the product of research and development in technology, the technological innovations within the sphere of the life sciences will be shaping our cultures and societies even as manifest. So what the new media artists are discovering for their purposes right now within the life sciences, will demand a public discussion about the significance and impact of this new bio-technological dispositive that is unmistakably emerging right before our eyes.