Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau


"Art as a Living Process"
Based upon the insight that interaction per se and the interrelation between entities are the driving forces for the structures of life, we are investigating the interaction and creative process as such. Creation is not any more understood as expression of the artists inner creativity or "ingenium," but instead becomes itself an intrinsically dynamic process that is based upon the interaction parameters and the evolutionary image processes of the work. [1]
  Interactive Plant Growing
  LifeSpacies II



"A-Volve (1993/94) is a pool of artificially living creatures, that are open to outside influences by reacting and interacting with their "natural" and "artificial" environment.

A-Volve" reduces the borders between real and unreal, by connecting reality to "non-reality." Human decision in the creation of a new form and the rules of evolution and selection will create an environment that is open to all possible modifications and selections, following the laws of evolution and creation. The visitor becomes part of the evolutionary system, he is a partner of the virtual organisms and gives and promotes their "artificial life."

Water as the metaphor for birth and basic evolution is the medium for this artificial life "pool", that is open to its real environment."[2]


"In the interactive real-time environment "A-Volve" visitors interact with virtual creatures in the space of a water filled glass pool.These virtual creatures are products of evolutionary rules and influenced by human creation and decision."[2]

  • Virtual 3-D creatures are created by using a touch screen to design any kind of 2-D shape with your finger which is converted in to a 3-D creature.
    • 400 vertex points (x,y,z)
    • Colors & textures assigned by speed of drawing
    • Vertex points, color & texture used as genetic code for each creature
  • Swim in a pool of real water; look for food and mates
  • Genetic code + movement algorithm = unique motion
  • Motion algorithm = wave function, front-back of creature, propels it forward/backward
  • Natural selection: Movement and behavior of virtual creatures is determined by its form, this also determines its "fitness" in the pool so that the most fit creatures mate and reproduce.


  • Fitness: ability to reach a target in specific time frame. Dependent on form and muscle function.
  • Creatures compete for energy. Predator creatures (=most fit creatures) hunt for prey creatures.
    • Predators eat creatures and absorb energy
  • Creatures have internal vision systems.
  • Creatures interact with visitors: react to movement of hands in water of the pool. Creatures try to flee but will stay still if caught. Visitors can protect creatures from predators.
  • Evolution: When creatures mate and reproduce the algorithms provide for mutation and cross-over following the principles of Mendelian genetics. The newly born offspring immediately react and live in the pool, interacting with visitors and other creatures.
  • Algorithms create smooth and natural movements and "animal-like" behavior.
  • This is all completed in real time through interaction of people and the virtual creatures.
  LifeSpacies II
An interactive artificial life environment where users can create artificial creatures by typing text messages. The constant movement, feeding, mating and reproduction activities of the creatures result in a complex system that features complex interactions between creature, and creatures as well as users and creatures based on written text as a primary source of (genetic) information.[3-4]
  • LifeSpacies II - online
  • Interaction between online and onsite participants through evolutionary forms they create by typing text.
  • Text-to-form coding system that uses written text as genetic code and translates it into virtual creatures.
    • "letters, syntax and sequencing of the text is used to code certain parameters in the creature's design functions."[3]
    • "Form, shape, color, texture and the number of bodies and limbs are influenced by the text parameters."[3]
    • Body design and motion determined by complexity of text message.
  • Creatures eat text characters released by participants and eat text that is the same as their "genetic code" (=text that created them)
  • Creatures compete for text/food and mate
  Interactive Plant Growing

"Interactive Plant Growing (1993-97) is an installation, which deals with the principle of the growth of virtual plant organisms and their change and modification in real time in the 3-dimensional virtual space of a 4D Graphics Computer (Silicon Graphics). These modifications of predefined "artificially living plant organisms" are mainly based on the principle of development and evolution in time. The artificial growing of program - based plants is an expression of the desire to discover the principle of life, which is always defined by the transformations and morphogenesis of certain organisms.

Interactive Plant Growing connects the real time growing of virtual plants in the 3 - dimensional space of the computer to real living plants, which can be touched or approached by human viewers."[8]

  • Touch a real plant or move hands towards it and this controls the real time virtual growth of 25+ virtual plants
    • Each of the 25 virtual plants has 5+ variants
  • Virtual plants displayed on a video screen
  • Viewers become a part of the artwork as they choose how to interact with the plants and therefore what growth is projected on to the screen
  • Virtual plant types: ferns, mosses, trees, vines and a cleaning plant ("killer plant").
  • Touch and distance of/from the real plant control the size, rotation, appearance, color and position for the virtual plant by the generation of different data values
  • Algorithms based on morphological characteristics of real plant differentiation
  • Virtual growing is based on "the appearance of movement and differentiation " [8]
    • Uses special randomising parameters for size, length, rotation, translation, angle and colour as "artificial growth and differentiation regulators" to determine the morphology of virtual plants.[8]
  • "The electrical potential difference between human and plant gets measured through the living plants."[8]
  • "This voltage difference varies depending on the hand - plant distance, the sensitivity of the plant ranges from 0 to about 70 cm in space, depending on the size and morphology of the real plant."[8]
  • "Each data value coming from each plant is interpreted in synchronisation and in real time by means of the growing program during the drawing of the virtual plants."[8]
  • "All data values (derived from the interaction viewer - plant) are now interpreted as variables in the growing program. Each value is responsible for specific growing events; changing rotation, scaling, translation, location or colour."[8]
  • "In the dark 12 x 6 meter installation space, five different real plants are placed on 5 wooden columns in front of a high resolution 4 x 3 meter video projection screen. All plants are connected by an interface to a 4D Silicon Graphics computer, which sends its video signals from the screen to a high resolution RGB video data beamer 80 kHz , 650 Lux. This data beamer sends the growing pictures to the projection screen in real time."[8]

"GENMA (1996)is a machine, that enables us to manipulate 'Nature'. Nature exemplary is represented as artificial nature of a micro scale: abstract amoeboid artificial three-dimensional forms and shapes. Principles of artificial life and genetic programming are implemented in those forms or "creatures", allowing the visitor to manipulate their virtual genes in real time."

"The wish of understanding nature has lead mankind to the development of natural sciences; these have become increasingly skilled in dissecting all parts of nature and it's inner structures. Modern genetics will for example soon be able to tell us which part of our genes will be responsible for which part of our body. And as history shows, we will not fall behind with trying and experimenting with our new acquired knowledge. The seeking for knowledge and the fascination of trials and initially innocent experiments shall be captured in GENMA.

GENMA is a kind of dream machine, that allows us to "play" scientist and as we watch our selves in doing so, it also mirrors the absurdity of this action and interaction. By using science, namely principles of artificial life, as source for creation, GENMA also wants to address the question of what it means to manipulate and what impact it will have on us in the future."[9]

  • Look in to a mirrored glass box, see projections of GENMA creatures and try to touch/grab them
  • Genetic code of each creature displayed on the touch screen and is manipulated by the visitor which changes the appearance of the creature in the glass box.
  • "Taking parts of the genetic strings, cutting, pasting or multiplying them, adding mutations and variations, GENMA allows the visitor to explore the tools of genetic manipulation and satisfies our inner wish to change and transform the nature we know."[9]


"Nevertheless, GENMA doesn't take position in the common "good-bad" classification or in the sense of "political correctness", but wants to reflect our fascination for the unknown and unexplored.

On a visual level GENMA furthermore explores the concept of "natural design" or "auto design", a design that is not any more prefixed and controlled by the artists, but represents the degree of interest and interaction of each single visitor. Each visitor will be creating the forms he wants to see, aided by artificial genetics, mutation, evolution and manipulation. To push it further, the audience thus will become "creators" or "artists" themselves, using the power and possibilities of such tools.

GENMA is not a tool in the scientific sense. Its only purpose is to reflect on itself as an autonomous system, that uses science to emphasizes the question of what it means to manipulate, change and interact."[9]

  • interactive text-to-form editor on the Internet
  • write text messages and each of these messages functions as a genetic code to create a visual three-dimensional form
  • text-to-form editor: genetic encoding of text characters (=letters) into design functions
  • forms develop in real-time through the interaction of the user with the system.
  • "Each different message creates a different form. Depending on the composition of the text, the forms can either be simple or complex, or abstract or organic."[10]
  • "All text messages together are used to build a collective and complex three-dimensional image. This image is like a virtual herbarium, composed of the various forms based on the different text messages (i.e., verbs), hence the name VERBARIUM."[10]
  • "Clicking any part within the collective image to retrieve messages sent earlier by other users."[10]
PICO_SCAN (2000)- "an interactive installation that allows users to measure and capture  their users various body data and links them to the creation and evolution of artificial life creatures. The PICO_SCAN system consists of 5 PICO_SCANNER interface device and 5 plasma video screens. When the user picks up the PICO_SCANNER and scans along her body she generates various input data that are specific to her own body characteristics. The collected data information is then used to generate artificial life creatures that can feed on these color values provided by the users video image."[11]
  • An installation to study the modeling of artificial evolution in research and interactive art.
  • Use a hand-held scanning device to capture  various body data use this to create and evolve of artificial life creatures.

Images and Signs of the 21st Century - exhibition of Pico_scan

  A-Volve (1994/95):
  Life Spacies II:
  Life Spacies II:
  links about christa and laurent:
  C. Sommerer and L. Mignonneau, "VERBARIUM and LIFE SPACIES: Creating a Visual Language by Transcoding Text into Form on the Internet," in IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages (VL'99) Conference Proceedings, (Tokyo, 1999), pp. 90-95