Artificial Life artworks hold a unique place in the art world, one that has been largely mapped by the VIDA international competition through its annual recognition of outstanding works based on A-Life. Works that have received awards since the VIDA competition began in 1999 (25 prizewinning artworks and 56 honorary mentions) have gained viewer appreciation and popularity at the same level as any other kind of art. Yet these works define a territory of their own, delineated here through characteristics of A-Life art that arise from both the artist’s studio and the research lab and that mark the 25 awarded artworks. Following this article, the Leonardo VIDA Gallery presents a selection of eight prize-winning works that show the breadth of the competition to date; each is discussed here.
The author considers ways in which her interactive artworks “fracture” narratives relating to femininity and critique webdesign conventions that often encode these narratives. In the process, she discusses how interactive media and electronic culture provide unique opportunities for exploring gender.
Leonardo da Vinci illustrated several traditional forms of “perpetual-motion machine” in small pocket books now known as the Codex Forster. He was well aware that these designs, based on waterwheel/pump combinations, mechanical overbalancing hammers or rolling balls, would not—and could not—work.
The author has discerned a deep interest in the occult arts at the core of Luigi Russolo’s Art of Noises. Such an interest is confirmed by Russolo’s admiration for Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s writings on music and acoustics constituted in fact a scientific and spiritual paradigm for Russolo; the former’s mechanical musicalinstrument projects were important models for Russolo’s own, from 1913’s intonarumori to the nuovo istrumento musicale a corde of 1931. Perhaps because of the futurists’ ambivalent position toward the figure of Leonardo (proto-futurist or passatista), Russolo profusely quoted Leonardo but carefully avoided mentioning any borrowing.
In one of his lesser-known studies of flow, Leonardo da Vinci in 1513 came upon yet another question he could not answer: When blood hits the wall of the heart, does the flow split in two? In 1977, this question was answered by Albert Libchaber in an experiment that became a cornerstone of chaos theory. Can Leonardo’s question, Libchaber’s solution and notions of integrated systems be drawn together to create a whole? While this trajectory has its limitations, the journey has some rewards, taking in Leonardo’s cosmology, chaos theory, poststructuralist philosophy, the Polynesian worldview, the Internet and the weather.
The traditional scholarly appraisal of Leonardo’s Giant Crossbow design dismisses it as a fanciful object, although often with praise of it as a quintessential example of his technical draftsmanship. The author offers evidence of Leonardo’s likely intent that the drawing function as a reliable plan with which readers of a treatise on military engineering could consider a strategy, or an imaginative solution (a fantasia), for building the full-scale giant crossbow. At issue are the agreements between the illustrated dimensions and the written specifications, the proportional consistency of those dimensions and the possible use of Archimedean geometry to determine the primary dimensions.