‘Life Writer’ by artists Laurent Mignonneau & Christa Sommerer

I came across this piece whilst browsing art-science books at the Wellcome Collection the other day. It is an old analogue typewriter that artists Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer have kitted out with software so that when you type you create new life forms that move and interact.

In Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer’s words:

“When users type text into the keys of the type writer, the resulting letters appear as projected characters on the normal paper. When users then push the carriage return, the letters on screen transform into small black and white artificial life creatures that appear to float on the paper of the type writer itself. The creatures are based on genetic algorithms where text is used as the genetic code that determines the behaviour and movements of the creatures…the text functions as genetic code for the creation of artificial life creatures.

…All of the artificial life creatures also need to eat text in order to stay alive and when users type a new text the creatures will quickly try to snap up these characters from the paper in order to get energy. Once creatures have eaten enough text they can also reproduce and have off-spring so eventually the screen can become very full when creatures a fed well.

The user can also push the creatures around when using the scroll of the typing machines cylinder. She can for example push the creatures back into the machine which will crush them or scroll the creatures off the screen all together, making new place for new creatures.”

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