Monash University

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After life

posted on 2017-02-06, 03:05 authored by Guglielmetti, Mark
Artificial life originates, so the accepted narrative goes, from the domain of science. In this discursive orientation much is underwritten by the biological metaphor to generate lifelike behaviour and the emergence of life, irrespective of material form (Langton 1989b, 5). Moreover, in terms of artificial life image making, the success of the visualisation is often dependent on observing this lifelike behaviour to decipher the emergent patterns in the artificial life ‘world’—what is perceived in the ‘world’ or on the screen is what there is to perceive. Artists using artificial life processes frequently draw from such key themes as biology, lifelike behaviour and emergence to generate works of the ‘classical’ arts namely drawings, sculpture (three-dimensional [3D] digital objects) and music. There are, however, other dimensions through which to consider artificial life image making aside from the scientific or biological account; for example, the processes are often associated with contemporary generative art practice, twentieth-century art making, Islamic carpet design and, more recently, Islamic art. This thesis investigates artificial life image making in relation to, and as a constituent of the moving image—specifically, artificial life visualised in three-dimensional computer-generated space (3D space). Of particular interest in this exploration is the view taken from the virtual camera into the artificial life ‘world’. Analogous to looking through a telescope or microscope, the view into the artificial life ‘world’ is monocular and often fixed in it; in this regime, we look ‘at’ agents: ‘creatures’, ‘organisms’ or ‘cyberbeasts’. This strategy of looking through the scientific lens to observe the natural world has parallels to the ‘long take’ in cinema and documentary filmmaking, as discussed by Andre Bazin. When looking ‘at’ a visualisation of artificial life we look ‘through’ interpretative regimes. Moreover, the grammars of the moving image, including film and cinema, underpin the continuous re-formation of the cultural grammars in which we look at and frame these agents, as they live, fight and die in artificial life ‘worlds’. Even as I trace artificial life image making through the moving image, little experimentation exists in this field with regard to evolving the view into the ‘world’. Given the capacity for digital media systems to accommodate an infinite (n) array of expressions, the de facto viewing protocol into artificial life ‘worlds’ is unusual but can, in part, be explained by the domain’s contemporary relationship with science, in which modern observation is often considered raison d'être. To counteract this tendency, the practice-based research investigates the expressive potential of artificial life image making vis-à-vis the intercultural traffic between various visual cultures to align the optical consistency of its practices with other contemporary forms of mediated, mobilised and disciplined visual culture.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Vince Dziekan

Additional supervisor 1

Troy Innocent, Jon McCormack, Allan Dorin, Vince Dziekan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Multimedia and Digital Arts


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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