Nasahiro Miwa, Akke Wagenaar: Animatrix: Interactive Computer Installation

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    Animatrix: Interactive Computer Installation



Artist Statement:

    Animatrix is a computer dancer, reminding us of a Bodhisattva, a Buddhist creature in half-enlightened state.

    The installation consists of three parts:

    1) The graphics program that calculates the movements of the Animatrix, depending on user input.

    2) The music program that interactively composes the music depending on user input.

    3) The user interface.

    The user interface is a double joystick consisting of two positioning devices attached to each other.  The Animatrix reacts to the movements of the interface and starts to dance; at the same time rhythmical music is triggered.

    There is a relation between the movements of the interface, the movements of the Animatrix, and the music, but the relation is not straightforward: sometimes the Animatrix seems to be a willing dance partner, at other times it seems to have its own life and to dance its own dance.  By playing with the system the user will gradually discover that s/he is not only able to influence the dance of the Animatrix, but also the music and the rhythm that comes along with it.

    There are two levels of interaction:

    1) Positioning the interface gives direct control of some of the movements of the Animatrix, and of part of the musical composition.

    2) Variations in moving, twisting, and rotating the interface are measured and analyzed over a longer period of time and cause more complex patterns of music and movement.

    The graphics program receives the input data and reacts directly to it.  It passes the data on to the music program that also reacts directly to it.  Both programs analyze the input data over a longer period of time, and exchange the results of their analyses continuously.  The music program analyzes and evaluates the timing and rhythm aspects of the user’s movements and processes this information in its composition rules.  It then sends the results of the analysis to the graphics program.

    The graphics program analyzes and evaluates the positioning, twisting, and rotational aspects of the user input and passes it on to all body parts of the Animatrix, each of which has its own set of rules that tell it how to move and how to react to the results of both analyses.  The movement information is then passed on the music program.

    The work was supported by the following institutes and companies:
    Fonds voor Beeldende Kunsten, Vormgeving & Bouwkunst, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Institut fuer Neue Medien an der Staedelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
    Kunsthochschule fuer Medien, Koeln, Germany
    Silicon Graphics Computer Systems, Koeln, Germany
    Internationaler Wiener Kompositionswettbewerb, Wien, Austria


    Writing Rules for Art’s Sake
    For several years I have concentrated on the investigation of the possibilities for automation in the art creation process.  I have approached this research from a conceptual (and artist’s) point of view.

    Tools that supply automation during the making of an artwork already exist, and are being used by artists in a wide area of applications. However, I have been looking for an automation tool that affects artistic thinking at a more abstract and basic level.

    If there exists something like an artist’s formal language (where every artist uses his or her own version of this language, but all languages belong to a certain class), one could think of a tool that supplies automation at a level where it will affect such a language.  In fact such a tool might call for the development of a new class of formal art languages, and it is clear that if an artist is going to be using such a tool, this will influence his or her way of thinking from the moment of conception of the artwork.

    There is a lot of research going on in the scientific community. Many new programming paradigms are being developed, like dynamics motion control, inverse kinematics, behavioral systems, artificial life systems, fractals, and L-systems. These paradigms are all implementations of more or less complex, life-like systems into the binary world of the computer. I have looked at these paradigms from the following points of view:

    How could those paradigms be used as an artist’s tool?

    How will implementations of these paradigms affect the artist’s thinking?

    A virtual world can be represented in the computer: in the virtual world are its inhabitants (objects).The inhabitants behave according to laws and rules that are described in the program. Each individual object follows its own set of rules, which may be very simple, but as a group the inhabitants will show an emerging group behavior. Such a group behavior can be rather complex, even if the underlying rules are simple.

    Artificial intelligence researchers are looking for life and searching for rules that cause life-like behavior. Being an artist, and not looking for life, I would like to reconsider the set of rules. Rules can describe many things, for instance physical behavior according to laws of gravity and collision, or individual behavior like “avoid the others and fly forwards.” But rules could also describe what an object might look like, or how a viewer might interfere in the system and change the set of rules.

    Once a system has been implied, in which a set of rules can be defined and applied to a set of objects, the thinking process of the artist can be directed into thinking about possible sets of rules. Possible rules might describe how objects behave individually, how they are born, how they live and die, how they mate, survive, and mutate, what they are and what they look like. Rules could describe how the system is visualized, and whether its output will be graphics, text, or sound. Last but not least they could describe how the objects react on a viewer’s behavior and interference, how a viewer’s behavior and interference might change the rules, and how the rules might change themselves.

    By defining the set of rules the artist creates the elements of the formal language that is going to be used. The machine will take care of the application of the rules of this language, and here’s where automation comes in. Once the program is running, events (elements of the composition) will occur in a non-predictable order. A story is being told, although it may be a very abstract story. If the program is interactive, the story will be non-linear: the viewer has become involved in the sequence of events.

    An important aspect of the artistic creation process has been taken over by the machine, viz. the application of formal language rules. The focus of the artist’s imagination has been shifted from application of rules to defining a set of rules.

    I have started my work by describing movements for objects with simple mathematical functions. I built an application in which variations on a rule could be made by changing some parameters; the application would run fully automatically and the output would be an animation on videotape. (“Automated Animations,” part I, 1991).

    I have then started to program a virtual world in which the inhabitants must obey laws of Newtonian dynamics: gravity, collision and friction. Several animations were the
    result of running this system with various parameters. In some of these animations the virtual camera would be one of the inhabitants of the virtual world (“Automated Animations,” part II, 1991 and “25 objects meet,” 1991/92).

    I have extended the system with behavioral rules for its inhabitants. I have changed it to a real-time interactive system and added sound to it. The computer installation”? objects meet” that was the result of this work was exhibited at the Ars Electronica 1992 (“7 objects meet,” real-time interactive computer installation, 1992).

    My most recent work is the interactive computer installation “Animatrix,” (in cooperation with the composer Masahiro Miwa). This installation has two rule systems running concurrently: one for the movements of a seven-armed dancer, and one for the composition of the music. Both systems communicate with each other continuously (“Animatrix,” real-time interactive computer installation, 1993).