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Innovative installation to be hosted in Huxley Building

A cutting-edge installation which produces real-time digital art from the data in its immediate surroundings has been installed in the Huxley Building.

Duality of Life, was created by Nexus Studios, an award-winning company with offices in London and Los Angeles.

It consists of a dual-screen display that generates real-time digital ‘lifeforms’ from interactions and local data. The design evolves as the data shifts, with the ‘lifeforms’ changing shape and movement.

The artwork changes in response to a variety of surrounding influences including a loud noise, if someone is looking at it, if the wind is blowing, and it can tell how many people are in the building at any one time. Based on research at the university, it is also connected to Norway’s Met Office to pick up weather bulletins and it even issues daily Tweets.

One of the screens will show a live stream of ‘eDNA’ consisting of bio-inspired algorithms, rules and actual source code. The other screen shows data-generated organisms that mimic biological development.

Each month a new life form is born and evolves. After several months the various life forms cohabit in a virtual environment. They revert to cells during the summer break and the process begins all over again at the start of the next academic year, echoing the behaviour of a cohort of university students undertaking a course of study in the Huxley Building.

Duality of Life has caught the attention of the Barbican in London, which is in talks with Nexus Studios about including the work in an upcoming exhibition.

The £30,000 commission is funded through Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It was co-ordinated by Alan Boldon, the university’s Director of Museums, Galleries & Theatre, Laurence Hill, Director of the Brighton Digital Festival, and Branwen Lorigan, Brighton & Hove Council’s Economic Development Officer for Creative and Environmental Industries.

The evolution of the digital ‘lifeforms’ is as follows:

  • • In the space of a month, a lifeform evolves from a molecule-like structure to a fully grown organism.
  • • At the start of the academic year the lifeforms will barely have taken shape and will evolve in many different ways.
  • • By the end of the academic year the various lifeforms co-exist in a virtual ecosystem.
  • • During the summer holiday the lifeforms will revert back to molecule-like structures and the cycle will begin again.

The algorithm used in the installation is so sophisticated it can enable the lifeforms to mimic how coral grows, or the precise angle at which a branch emerges from a tree trunk, or how the dots on the panther’s skin are laid out.

It is this algorithm that allows the lifeforms to respond in real-time to the data and human movement in and around the Huxley Building.

The panel of judges for the commission included Professor David Timson, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, and Professor Tara Dean, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise).

Professor Dean said: “In our view, the proposal by Nexus Studios was outstanding and dovetailed perfectly with what we wanted to achieve – something that demonstrated the amazing research and teaching that is happening every day in the Huxley Building.”

Stephanie Thomson • October 12, 2018

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