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Simulating the process of plant evolution

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Posted May 31, 2013

Computer generated plants, grown from parts of oil company logos, is the work of a talented Australian-based electronic media artist and computing researcher being showcased to a worldwide audience.

The work comprises 50 images of computer synthesised plant forms, grown using custom computer algorithms developed to simulate biological growth and development.

The work comprises 50 images of computer synthesised plant forms, grown using custom computer algorithms developed to simulate biological growth and development.

Associate Professor Jon McCormack, Director of the Centre for Electronic Media Art at Monash University, is currently exhibiting Fifty Sisters at the Ars Electronica Museum in Linz, Austria – one of the world’s leading media art venues. The work was commissioned by the museum for the 2012 Ars Electronica Festival and will be exhibited there until September this year.

An online version of the work is being presented as a Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA) exhibition this month, curated by Dr Vince Dziekan from the Monash Faculty of Art Design & Architecture (MADA).

The work comprises of fifty images of computer synthesised plant forms, grown using custom computer algorithms Associate Professor McCormack developed to simulate biological growth and development.

“The forms are generated by creating a ‘digital DNA’ – a small set of generative rules that the computer uses to simulate the growth and development of each plant form,” Associate Professor McCormack said.

“By simulating the process of evolution, I was able to evolve strange new species of plant that could never exist in reality.

“But what makes these forms different from their biological counterparts is that I have used the graphical elements of oil company logos as the individual developmental elements of each form. So essentially, you get a computer generated plant grown out of oil company logo elements.”

In the exhibition developed in collaboration for LEA, selected images of these computer-generated forms are shown alongside the code that was used to generate them.

“Arguably, oil has had more impact on human development, politics and global economies than any other natural resource,” Associate Professor McCormack said.

“Fossil fuels originated as plants, which over millions of years were transformed to the coal and crude oil that powers modern civilisation. So the work makes an explicit connection between the image of oil companies as we know them today, and the origins of the energy on which we depend.”

The online exhibition, produced through LEA’s Media Exhibition Platform, is presented using social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

The Media Exhibition Platform is co-directed by Dr Vince Dziekan, Director of Programme for Graduate Research in Design in the MADA, as a curatorial platform presenting contemporary media art that engages with the convergence of art, science and technology.

Source: Monash University

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