Micro.Spheres 2003-2005

Julius POPP

Micro.Adam, Micro.Eva 2002

Julius POPP


"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they perceived that they were naked".

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they perceived that they were naked".
(Genesis 3.7)

Micro.Adam and Micro.Eva (2002) are two simple robots who will discover their own bodies and develop body-consciousness on a minimal basis. Like Adam and Eve in paradise became conscious and had to leave the garden, now Micro.Adam and Micro.Eva, two machines, are about to cross the border.

Both robots, circular in design and only different in their inner complexity, are placed in a reduced environment. The robots are limited to one degree of freedom, the (double meaning) rotation about themselves. The robots' motion, rolling on two wheels mounted to a wall, is archived by moving an inward facing actuator. This changes the robot's balancing point, forcing the body to turn to a new balanced position. The robot's turning and rolling is a visualization of the controller's learning progress -- a picture of the emerging body-consciousness.

Julius Poppís work has received numerous international distinctions. His interdisciplinary projects are not only recognized in the art world but also in the field of scientific research. Presently, MITís Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as well as the Fraunhofer Institut in Bonn are studying Julius Poppís realizations in the laboratory: he developed, as a part of his artistic work, robots that introduced new forms of artificial intelligence. Julius Popp uses technology as a means to separate and objectify natural, social, and cultural processes and cognitive structures. Exploring and inventing a formal and functional language in order to express his artistic preoccupations leads Popp to develop machines and robots capable of interacting with their environment and even develop a form of artificial consciousness. At the intersection between art and science, the works of Julius Popp enlarge and redefine the notion of interactivity.

The Micro.Spheres (2003-2005) installation takes place in a room, containing around 16 autonomously acting robots, which visitors are allowed to enter and experience.

The robots act according to a dogmatic command that drives them to perpetually place themselves in the spatial centre of their immediate environment. Following the laws of action and reaction, this simple command makes it possible to experience complex interactions such as short and long-range effect and the ensuing adaptive process of the visitors. Left to their own devices in the absence of any visitors, the robots will spread out across the room in an even geometrical pattern. As soon as a person enters this arrangement, the robots' alignment and correspondingly their immediate environment is disrupted. This forces the robots into a process of realignment. They incorporate the visitor into their order and try to integrate them into a new spatial balance in the room. What results is a chain reaction which seems highly complex but can be easily explained as it is simply a result of each robot having an effect on its neighbour, all the way to the borders of the room. This process necessarily has to affect all elements of the system.

The system remains active as long as the visitors continue to move. When the visitor remains still the system is able to find a new stable pattern. When there is more than one visitor within the system, the complexity of the shapes and processes increases.

Micro.Spheres reflects on the complex interrelations that exist between 'living' bodies and their environment. In particular, it addresses the changing social structures of our present day and age.

The installation Bit.Fall uses water as a medium between information drawn from current affairs and the viewer.

The input of the installation is formed by current buzzwords selected from various internet news websites by a statistics-based computer program. The digital information is analogised, producing images shaped by the water in front of the viewers' eyes. A sculptural 'information-curtain' stretching from the ceiling to the floor is formed. The device, which is attached to the ceiling, consists of 128 nozzles that emit individual drops of water through magnetic valves. A computer program is employed to synchronise the magnetic valves, making it possible to freely determine the shape of the bitmap pattern formed by the drops as they fall to the ground. As they dissolve, the water structures are collected in a container. The water is continuously sucked back into the valve construction by a pump, creating a closed circuit.

The ephemeral information-curtain is a metaphor for the incessant flood of information we are exposed to and from which we draw our perpetually changing realities. The visual information is only ever temporarily perceptible as an image before it dissolves into itself. All that remains are the associations formed within the viewer's mind. What matters is not what we see, but how we view it. Bit.Fall uses irony to disrupt the information society's permanent quest to achieve an objectifiable representation of reality through the use of technological advances.

Bit.Flow (2004-2005) uses two immiscible liquids, pumped through a 45 metre long tube that is laid out in a random pattern. A transparent liquid serves as an invisible carrier while a tinted liquid forms drops or lines representing one or several pixels. Through the use of a motion tracking device, a computer program determines the direction of the flow of the pixels within the tube and imposes an order on the chaos.

By using this ordering system, pixels can now be pumped into the tube in controlled measures. As they circulate through the tube, these pixels form a linear pattern (image) that can only be perceived as two dimensional information by the visitors when viewed from a calibrated distance and only when the entire pattern is contained in the tube. As a result, a temporary image is generated by the specific arrangement of pixels that is determined by the program. Due to the constant flow, each image immediately disintegrates into chaos.