[ISEA95] Paper: Christopher Csikszentmihályi – An embodied body of work


As technology and science continue to break down phenomena previously held to be whole, artists are presented with new methods and concepts with which to work. Life and intelligence, two areas currently under the scientific gaze, are of particular interest to the author. After giving a survey of his work, the author responds to criticism of the attempt to create intelligent entities.


Creating Entities
For the last four years I have been creating works of art which are aesthetic experiments in autonomy. These experiments investigate, or attempt to redefine, boundaries of  humanity, nature, and technology. The actual things I build, which I call either autonomous entities or familiars, generally have some sort of behavior within a particular context. It is in this relationship of behavior to context where I situate my art. In order to work in the medium of autonomous entities, I’ve been following and applying current research in such areas as artificial life, genetic algorithms, and neural networks. ’m learning and using these tools not because I’m fascinated with these topics and the debates around them – though in fact I admit that I’m far more interested in these debates than, say, most literary or psychoanalytic theory. I’m not creating pieces using these tools because of the tolls’ implications for our species, although they will have serious implications. I’m doing it because Ithink people and animals, autonomous entities I have contact with, are by far the most interesting things in the world. Far more interesting than Venice in three point perspective, than sculpted bodies without animus, than the interplay of abstract ideas within culture. As I see it, animals are the most interesting things in the universe, and I’ll be lucky if I can create something with the complexity of an animal. Of course, that’s impossible now. I’ve been gambling, so far, five years of my life that certain developments in scientific research will eventually allow me to build truly complex entities, or, rather, to allow them to emerge from components which I build. Central to this notion are the strategies of Brooks (Steels & Brooks, 1995) and his ideas of emergent behavior and behavior-based robotics.

  • Christopher Csikszentmihályi, University of California at San Diego, CA, USA,  designs
    autonomous entities exploring the boundaries between humans, animals, and machines. He uses tools ond methods from the sciences of artificial life and robotics to synthesize memes which, he hopes, will redefine notions of humanity ond technology.

Full text p.48-50