The Art of Decoding: n-folded, n-visioned, n-cultured


Scientific modeling requires us to suspend disbelief, nowhere is this more palpable than in artificial life, an area of computational research investigating the principles that constitute a living system “without making reference to the materials that constitute it” (Adami); in other words the emergence of life irrespective of material form: biology/code, carbon/silicon.

This paper investigates artificial life visualisation as both a scientific concern and in relation to media arts. Of interest in this examination is the normative protocol of looking at an artificial life simulation or ‘world’. Analogous to looking through a telescope or microscope, the view into the artificial life world is monocular and often fixed; in this regime we look at “organisms”. This strategy of looking through the scientific lens to observe a ‘natural world’ enfolds other forms of cultural tactics that require decoding including but not exclusive to Bazin’s ontology of the photographic image, Disney nature films and other “apparatus-based universes which robotize the human being and society” (Flusser).

Subsequent to identifying these protocols in artificial life visualisation I draw on a European account of media ecology as an approach to intervene in these arbitrary standards by conjoining disparate regimes, modes of deportment and systems of transduction (in this case artificial life, “VR”- stereoscopic perspectival simulation, and data profiling) to bring these media(ted) systems into cultural relief.  I describe a number of work which exploit normative computational procedures to align artificial life image making into optical consistency with other forms of contemporary culture and to celebrate the ocular madness found in art forms such as neo-baroque image making and Islamic art.