Michael Takeo Magruder

Data Flower (Prototype I)

A generative virtual blossom algorithmically constructed in real-time from society’s representations of flowers. Context: “Data Flower (Prototype I)” explores the possibility of creating unpredictable and ephemeral synthetic flora within the deterministic constraints of the digital realm. The 3D structure of the artwork is produced by a set of VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) files that define the core geometry of the artificial flowers. A series of algorithms instigates and directs an endless cycle of emergence, growth and decay of the virtual blossoms. Randomisation of certain parameters at the onset of every new cycle causes subtle mutations within the petal formations and ensures that each flower develops in a different manner. Unlike conventional artificial life systems which are solely based upon unchanging internal factors, the artwork integrates an external, non-deterministic element directly into its creation process. The surface textures of the synthetic blossoms are programmatically constructed each day by an online Java application that parses the image repository Flickr and selects one hundred of the most recent photographs which have been uploaded with the tag ‘flower’. The sampled pictures are then algorithmically prepared and stored as a temporary database that is linked to the artwork’s VRML component. On each loop of the flowering cycle, a randomly selected image from the database is applied across the growing virtual geometry, thus completing that flower’s ephemeral form. As in real life, every virtual blossom the artwork generates is unique since its internal ‘genetic’ code exists in a perpetual state of flux and its external ‘developmental’ influence is derived from an ever-changing pool of user-generated media.

Michael Takeo Magruder is an American artist based in the UK working with New and Technological Media within Contemporary Arts practice. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 receiving a BA (Hons) in Biological Science. He is a long-standing member of King’s Visualisation Lab in the Centre for Computing in Humanities, King’s College London. Through this organisation he undertakes research, development and implementation of emerging technologies; including motion capture, immersive space and virtual environments, for use in contemporary creative and academic practice. His artworks have been showcased in over 180 exhibitions and 30 countries, including venues such as the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, EAST International 2005, Georges Pompidou Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Trans-Media-Akademie Hellerau. His works are regular inclusions in international New Media festivals, such as Cybersonica, CYNETart, FILE, Filmwinter, SeNef, Siggraph, Split, VAD and WRO. His artistic practice has been funded directly by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England, The National Endowment for the Arts, USA and numerous public galleries both within the UK and abroad. He is also recognised for his on-line arts practice and has been commissioned by leading portals for Internet Art such as Turbulence.org and Soundtoys.net. His work blends Information Age technologies with modernist-like aesthetics to explore the formal structures and conceptual paradigms of the networked, digital world.