Algues Artificielles

Series, 2017 – ongoing

During the summer of 2016, I spent a few weeks with my family by sea in Bretagne, France. During these times when one is expected to relax and not work, somehow ideas come more freely. I liked how the seaweed and jellyfish washed ashore and formed shapes and compositions which were always different, but, also, somehow always the same.

I tried to programme a simple piece of computer code to simulate these smooth, round curves. The effects were surprisingly satisfying. Somehow, my shapes reminded me of the sculptural works of Hans Arp. Instead of randomly generating those shapes, which was quickly becoming a bit boring, I tried to define a mechanism by which I could influence the outcome. I was wondering what would be the ‘most interesting’ composition. Could a process of feedback between me and the software be considered a kind of dialectic?

I devised a system in which the drawings - consisting of multiple lines and shapes - would evolve and improve over time. In many iterations, the system would give me a generation of works; each time I would pick two from which more ‘children’ would be bred. Because the breeding always happens between ‘siblings’ - a sort of mechanical incest - the diversity would gradually converge.

Technically (or biologically?), all properties of a drawing (angles, smoothness, shape, colour, transparency, scale, position, etc.) are stored in a long sequence of 0s and 1s: a digital genome. These genomes hermetically define the appearance (or phenotype) of each work (or specimen).

When two people (or, in this case, two drawings) are selected and mate, both of their chromosomes are aligned, and ad-random genes are selected from either parent (crossover). From this game of recombination, both iterative and diverse offspring emerge.

The process of selecting candidates for breeding, examining the results, and using those results to further breed to eliminate or emphasise particular traits in animals and flowers is called 'hybrid vigour'. My website, 'Hybrid Vigor’, is publicly accessible to crowd-source this process in an evolutionarily selective way, using the internet visitor as the fitness function.