An Interactive Audiovisual Installation

Pondlife II @ ICMC 2009, Montreal

Pondlife II @ ICMC 2009, Montreal

Pond Life is an ongoing series of interactive audiovisual installations involving simulated life forms projected into a water tank. The installation itself evolves and improves with each showing. Previous versions have been installed at the Sonic Arts Network Expo in Plymouth, England, at the International Computer Music Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, and as part of the S.LOW Projekt in Berlin, Germany.

The installation is centered around a large water tank in the center of a darkened room. A projector mounted above displays a simulation of evolving micro-organisms living in a simulated fluid, consuming and producing colored nutrient which is advected by the fluid. As these simple creatures grow, feed, reproduce, mutate, combine, and die, they create an ever-changing soundscape built of sine waves, the simplest sonic elements.

Submerged hydrophones and an optional video camera mounted above allow viewers to interact with the simulation by perturbing the virtual fluid as they perturb the real one.

Artistic Aims

The project aims to present the participant with an aesthetically captivating system which shows beauty and complexity despite of or indeed because of its construction from very simple independent agents and simulations. The piece uses no prerecorded sounds or prerendered images and relies only on processes defined locally in time and which always evolve according the the same rules – large-scale evolution and cycling of the system is implied by the values of various constants and probabilities. In this way the viewer is presented with a unique experience which mirrors the never-repeating beauty found in natural structures emergent from large numbers of simple agents acting over time.

Pondlife: Technical Setup

Pond Life uses the open source program Processing to handle simulation and graphical rendering tasks, and communicates via the OSC protocol with the SuperCollider program which is used for realtime audio rendering. In the past we have used two networked laptops for this purpose but for the new revision will work to run everything on a single, dedicated machine.

Photo gallery

  • September 14th, 2010
  • Posted in