[ISEA2011] Paper: Ben Bogart & Philippe Pasquier – Context Machines: A series of situated, outward-looking, self-organizing and generative artworks


Session: Code and Generative Art

“Context Machines” (CMs) are a family of site-specific, conceptual and electronic media artworks that capture photographic images from their environment in the construction of generative compositions. These artworks are produced in the context of meta-creation, where artworks are systems constructed in order to exhibit creative behaviour. Their production began with a central question: Could a machine be constructed that found its own relationship to it’s physical context, without the artist predetermining that relation?

“Resurfacing” was the first outward looking installation produced. The system captures images of the environment, at multiple moments in time, to produce interactive temporal landscapes. This project is a precursor to the CMs that follow, it was not intended to find a relation to its environment, and was not produced in the context of meta-creation.

“Memory Association Machine” integrates photographic images of its environment into an organized structure. This process is enabled by an artificial intelligence inspired by a model of human memory. The system free-associates through this structure as initiated by the most recent captured image. These free-associations are framed as the creative actions of the machine, and are meant to situate it in the physical world shared with the viewer. The process of free-association is enabled by a model of creativity as proposed by L. M. Gabora.

In “Dreaming Machine” these free-associations are framed as machine dreams. This interpretation of the work takes the naïve view that dreaming is a result of random activation in the brain, one conception of dreaming as proposed by Hobson, and therefore analogous to the concept of free-association.

The method of memory integration used in “Memory Association Machine” and “Dreaming Machine” is applied to thousands of prerecorded images in “Self-Organized Landscapes”. These landscapes are high resolution and intended for large-scale print reproduction.

CMs are produced at the intersection between art production, computer and cognitive science. Their application of cognitive models of memory, creativity, dreaming, and perception invite us to reconsider what is essentially human, how we relate to machines, and to look at ourselves anew.

  • Ben Bogart is an artist working in installation, audio-visual improvisation and software development. His installations create content live in response to their sensed environment. He works in an Open Source context and makes all the software he develops, that is of general use, available under the GPL. Physical modelling, chaos, feedback systems, evolutionary algorithms and artificial intelligence have been used to inform and engage in his creative process. Ben holds a Masters of Science in Interactive Arts and Technology from Simon Fraser University. His current work deals with computational implementations of embodied creativity, memory and dreaming.
  • Philippe Pasquier, FR/CA. After studying computer science, artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences in Europe, Canada and Australia, Philippe Pasquier joined Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology in January 2008 as an assistant professor. Philippe Pasquier is both a scientist specialized in artificial intelligence and a multi-disciplinary artist. As a scientist, his work has focused on the development of models and tools for endowing machines with autonomous, intelligent or creative behavior. Contributions vary from theoretical research in individual and societal agent theories to applied research in computational creativity. As an artist, he has been acting as a performer, sound designer, composer, producer, jury, committee member and teacher in many different contexts. He is serving or has served as a member or administrator of several artistic collectives (Robonom, Phylm, MIJI), art centers (Avatar, Bus Gallery) and artistic organizations (P: Media art, Machines, Vancouver New Music) in Europe, Canada and Australia. His work has been shown internationally and funded and supported by more than 20 scientific and or cultural institutions including the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadia Council for the Arts, the French Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Council for the Arts.   philippepasquier.com/home    metacreation.net    sfu.ca/siat.html

Full text (PDF) p. 228-234