Beyond Digital – Towards Biological

This residency forms a research collaboration for techno-organic practices, exploring emergent innovations at the intersection of digital technology and organic matter. Through the installation, the researchers enable conditions for a wide spectrum of life-forms to assemble (artificial chemical life, to biological life, and computational life in silico) into novel configurations with unique and emergent dynamics, creating a proto-environment, a hybrid ecology, that contains living, semi-living, and non-living actors.

The experiments developed for this work include a hanging small-scale robot that nurtures and maintains the artificial chemical life that evolves in the petri-dishes. A computational system tracks, analyzes, and identifies the matter that is composed within the petri-dish, and based on its results, the robotic ecology is controlled and actuated. The robotic system becomes an autonomous agent that attempts to explore the creation of life, and through the development a range of organic/soft-robotic structures begin to emerge in aeriform, solid, and liquid matter.

About the Artist Talks

As the part of the outcome, BDTB-researchers did a series of artist talks based on their own research focus:

Laura Beloff – Design of Nature

The merger of technology and biological matter is currently evolving in many different levels. The dichotomy between biological and technological is shifting boundaries and there is no longer a clear division between things, which emerge from nature, and things that are designed by humans. Design and engineering principles and methods are increasingly appearing into a growing number of areas, e.g. due to possibilities to manipulate and modify biological matter. It is becoming obvious that the natural world is increasingly based on man-made design, a development that changes our relation and perception of nature, as well as our understanding of the concept of real. Beloff’s research sees that this development is leading to the construction of uncanny nature; a concept based on the M. Mori’s idea of the “uncanny valley”. Where Mori was investigating robots and their human-likeness, the author points towards possible similar sensations concerning man-made biological organisms. The lecture will address the real and uncanny nature present in art & science works that are located in a liminal space – in between what has been and what will come next.

Stavros Didakis – Transdimensional Ecosystems & Extended Consciousness

Our current almighty techno-gods have successfully managed to deliver their utopian promises; immediacy, satisfaction, engagement. The manifested reality is now enhanced, augmented, and glitched, offering to the creative mind saturated desires that redefine the limitations of our bodies, consciousness, and imagination. The repercussions have dwelled the core of human existence, reshaping as well our understanding of what Art is, or what it can ultimately become. Examining this transitional phase in our Post-Digital era, trends and patterns begin to flourish and reproduce, demonstrating that the artistic exploration is not limited to traditional tools and resources, but spans across electronics, digital media, artificial and evolutionary systems, virtual cyberspaces, as well as organisms, bodies, and cells.

Jonas Jørgensen – Soft Robot Aesthetics and Materiality

The talk presents ongoing research on the aesthetics, materiality, and ecological potential of soft robots. Jørgensen will give a broad introduction to central aspects of technical soft robotics research and discuss selected examples of soft robots in media art. His research identifies different notions of soft materiality and argues that soft robotics as a phenomenon should be seen as giving prominence to the enactive and processual potential of soft matter. Against this background, Jørgensen’s own practice-based research on soft robotic visuality, haptics, and movement will be discussed.

Stig Anton Nielsen – Braided Robots – Mixed Substrate Computation

Robots can be defined as entities that based on stimuli from their environment autonomously sense, interpret, and react. Robots can perform such cognitive tasks through embedded electronics but it is to a high degree necessary for them to make use of their structural bodies as well. Examples demonstrate how computation can be entirely offloaded to the material and structural composition of the robotic body. Soft robotics have already demonstrated some capabilities in the area of material computation and cognition, however we propose a novel form of robots entirely constructed from composites of filament material structured in braids.

David Kadish – Tomorrow’s Ecologies

Hybrid ecosystems exist in a liminal state. They are not quite ecosystems “as-they-were” and yet they exist, operate, and function as ecosystems. They are modulated by human activity – and in this case, robotic activity – but they are still bound to their former realities. This talk explores the position of robots in these hybrid ecosystems, specifically in relation to ecosystems that produce food, through historical examples and a case study involving the hanging robot that has been developed for this residency.

The residency is hosted by Chronus Art Center.

Chronus Art Center (CAC) is China’s first nonprofit art organization dedicated to the presentation, research / creation and scholarship of media art. CAC with its exhibitions, residency-oriented fellowships, lectures and workshop programs and through its archiving and publishing initiatives, creates a multifaceted and vibrant platform for the discourse, production and dissemination of media art in a global context. CAC is positioned to advance artistic innovation and cultural awareness by critically engaging with media technologies that are transforming and reshaping contemporary experiences.