The Entropy Machine 1994-95

Many current thoughts concern biology's soft and wet monopoly of life. Life is regarded as a group of processes, as information processing. The biotechnological revolution in the 80's and the applications of the 90's (cloning, gene/hormone-therapy, and the Human Genom Project) have hoisted these thoughts. The Gene/code/information have become the point of focus. Life is a tool for the DNA. The human body is a gadget for the DNA. The body is the mechanism of survival for the information. Molecular Darwinism.

The Entropy Machine was a demographic installation. The installation tried to figure out what the audience preferred to look at. The software and the unperceived audience participation made the images. The audience was part of an interactive process, but unaware of their role. The artist initiated system.

The installation
A metal housing was placed on the floor. The sides were closed with a reinforced plastic fabric. A monitor was standing inside the box. The monitor was surrounded with petridiscs containing bacteria-cultures. A greenhouse.

The EM exhibited at Charlottenborg, Denmark The EM exhibited at Charlottenborg, Denmark The EM exhibited at Charlottenborg, Denmark

The software randomly picked initial images from a library. The library consisted of approx. 50 different screen images. All the images were directly relation to biology or to the installation. E.g. scanned texts, illustrations from old biology books, old photos from the artists family album or plans of the installations. All texts were appropriate citations - but not explanations. This was an aesthetic installation, not an educational.

The technique
An Cellular Automata-algorithm slowly changed the image on the monitor. Information was altered generation after generation. The picture permuted. The current generation-number was shown on the screen. After a large number of generations, the process started all over with a different image. When the image changed, the CA-algorithm was changed by a genetic algorithm. A digital thermometer placed in the box supplied a mutation-seed for this software-algorithm. The heat generated inside the box also fed the bacteria inside the petridiscs. The growthrate of the image-evolution and the evolution of installation-software was controlled by measuring the heat-radiation of the guests around the installation (using infrared sensors).


  The Entropy Machine was shown at ISEA95 in Montreal, Canada. During the show the genetic controller string changed:
At the start of the show. One week later.

The Entropy Machine received a honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica 1995

A note from 1999:
Four year after making this installation I became aware of Rudolf Arnheim's excellent essay "Entropy and Art" from 1971.