Open Ended Ensemble (Competitive Coevolution)
June 18 – August 13, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 18, 2:00-4:00 pm
Artist Talk: Thursday, June 23, 7:00 pm – Co-Presented with the Hamilton Arts Council’s Visual Arts Committee at Mills Hardware (95 King St. E, Hamilton)
Open Ended Ensemble (Competitive Coevolution) is a solo exhibition by Halifax based artist, Stephen Kelly. The work is a series of installations in which a collection of electromechanical sound-producing automatons, or agents, integrate basic attributes of a biological living system. In the current version, an ensemble of self-modifying, high-voltage sound amplifiers slowly learn to maneuver a robotic probe to the weakest region of electro-magnetic radiation along a fluorescent light fixture. Strong radiation from the lights causes the amplifiers to produce sound, layering sympathetic tones over the familiar drone of fluorescent lighting.
The agent’s behaviour is adaptive, subject to an evolutionary process in which a random population of computer programs slowly evolve, eventually achieving enough control of the robotic probe to coax its movement away from the source of radiation and into silence. Meanwhile, the light fixture would prefer to maintain the drone, and slowly evolves a strategy of its own, learning to move the lights and trap the probe in regions of strong radiation. An arms race ensues as the two competing forces interact and coevolve, akin to predator/prey or host/parasite relationships in biological systems.
Agents in the Open Ended Ensemble are interacting with simple, conflicting goals in a never-ending game. Their sensory experience of the environment is inherently noisy, obtained entirely from the coupling of a bare-bones magnetic probe to a fluorescent light fixture. Their control of the probe is very imprecise and clumsy. As a result, the agents are navigating their world with partial information and limited motor control. A volatile model ecosystem emerges in which each device achieves intermittent success and failure as their interaction unfolds over days or weeks.
This exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring an essay by Donna Szoke. The publication can be downloaded HERE (1.1mb)
Stephen Kelly is an artist, computer programmer, and musician living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has exhibited and participated in residency programs both nationally and internationally. His work incorporates sound, electronics, and other media in the creation of thematically diverse, often complex systems of cultural exploration. Stephen has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design as well as a Master of Computer Science degree from Dalhousie University, where he is currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Computer Science. He plans to continue crossing art and science within public installations and ongoing research projects in Machine Learning.
The artist would like to acknowledge the generous support of Arts Nova Scotia