Spaces of affinity – systems architecture and evolution

A talk by Sylvia Nagl

Life is a coherent space-time phenomenon of organised complexity, an
entangled web of relations within dynamic, non-linear fluxes of
matter, energy and information – worked out over four billion years of
evolution. Part of the information-containing free energy that reaches
the earth’s biosphere in the form of sunlight is converted into
cybernetic information by organisms and preserved in the intricate
structures and processes characteristic of life. Evolution gives rise
to novelty and an increase in complexity in these embodied

Systems architecture is seeking to cooperate with the creative
processes characteristic of life for the built environment. To achieve
this, new design methodologies are needed to create high-dimensional
networks of embodied structures and processes that are composed of the
inanimate, the living, the semi-living, the digital, and the
nanotechnological – the physical, the biological and the artificial –
to differing degrees. We can envisage designed animate-inanimate
assemblages on the meso-scale (on the scale of buildings) which might,
for example, be composed of unicellular organisms, artificial cells
and tissues and digital components with the ability to dynamically
adapt and evolve as complex ‘ecosystems’. The potential for new
evolutionary dynamics between these engineered systems and the human
body, societies and the biosphere also needs to be considered. Here,
the disciplines of evolution and complexity can offer valuable
conceptual and practical approaches for design and management, as well
as cultural and ethical discussion, of these new living technologies.

The talk will present biologically-inspired ‘models to think with’
such as the dynamics of swarms, multi-cellularity, symbiosis,
parasitic systems, evolution of natural and artificial ecosystems, and
evolution of networks. In addition, a new simulation method for design
of emergent processes will be introduced.

Random Information Exchange – The Polytechnic

Dominic Smith collecting instruction sets from the New Plymouth public.

We are an Arts organization called the polytechnic. We are based in the North east of England and we are an arts based group with an emphasis on hand-on and distributed approaches to working with technology.

We would use this residency as an opportunity to take the Random Information Exchange from alpha 0.2 stage into a beta 0.1 development state.

The main participatory nature of this residency would be to set up a Bureau to handle the exchange of information, all of which will be based around the exchange of simple text (*.txt) files. These files can range from cooking recipes, directions for a walk, musical notation in the form of abc files, tablature or saved data for complex multimedia programming environments. The person depositing the data will also received a random piece of data in return.

A production unit will run alongside the bureau to produce derivations and modifications of the data (the text files) this can take many forms e.g. cookery, knitting and interactive media. Production tasks will be performed by mostly unskilled labor to ensure accidental modification

This project has previously ran as an alpha test for developing a participatory model that have been exploring. Bringing the Open Source philosophy that was inherent in the tools we chose to use (apache web server, mySQL Database and PHP) with us into the larger and more visible aspect of the information exchange project. The relation between the tools and end produce in this project being much like a painter deliberately leaving traces of their initial sketches on a canvas or a sculptor leaving evidence of the tools used in an objects construction. We are currently developing a set of visualization tools that will encourage participation by showing seemingly random projects developing, stalling, transforming and forking into new ideas in real time. This project is heavily reliant upon audience participation at both a local and international level.

Description: We will be developing and testing a beta version of an online tool we are developing. This tool is called the Random Information Exchange and can be found here:

In its current mode you are required to upload a basic set of instructions on a txt file and you receive a random set in return. For this residency we will take this into a much more useful area were all changes to projects can be visibly mapped and user projects begin to take on more conceptual depth.

An image from the resulting exhibition formed from the exchange of instructions submitted and received.

Throughout the duration of the residency we will set up a bureau that encourages people to upload and receive information. This set up can be a simple as a table a computer, a printer and a Polytechnic member to assist. Along side the Bureau will be a production unit that will have all equipment and materials necessary for participants to realise projects assigned by the bureau. There will be 2 polytechnic members on hand to aid with production and to advise with the re-upload of modifications to the original project.

Dominic Smith is an artist, programmer and musician, currently studying towards PhD with CRUMB at Sunderland University. In 2005- he co-founded Polytechnic: a new media arts organization in Newcastle His work has been shown widely across the UK and he has done many residencies.

Sneha Solanki communicates her practice through art which interrogates science and technology. Solanki often works in process-based environments; producing events and projects which utilise low-tech, open and collaborative methods. Her practice extends to sound, web, broadcast, and time-based temporal works.

Will Scrimshaw – I work with and write about sound, performance and interaction. My work often makes use of interactive technologies and is focused around theories of resonance, noise, feedback, embodiment and materialism. I am currently pursuing research into theories of sonorous individuation in relation to the work of Gilles Deleuze as part of my PhD study.


I also had the pleasure on my final day In New Plymouth of talking to some of the most excellent staff from Witt and WelTec about Open Source models and collaborative practice in the arts. I have pasted some useful links below that relate to what I talked about. They are in no particular order and some will be of more use than others but they will hopefully be a good introduction to the subject.



Polytechnic: See above for info on the poly


Michael Mandiberg & Xtine Burrough: I mentioned the struggles and benefits of open sourcing your content via a publisher.


OS and Hacker culture


Links to useful linux distributions


How to dual boot your lovely mac so you can choose OSX or Linux when you switch it on


Composition for Taranaki Surfers – Alex Monteith

The Composition for Taranaki Surfers project is concerned with developing a relationship between Taranaki’s surf culture, video installation art, expanded documentary strategies and performance art. Surfing recently surpassed Rugby in New Zealand as the sport in which the highest number of New Zealanders participate. This project proposes to investigate surf culture in Taranaki in relationship to performativity in the geographical environment.

I would like to make a video installation that combines multiple simultaneous Digital video recordings at Taranaki’s renowned surf breaks, including at least Stent Road, Kumera Patch and Mangahume. These surf breaks are spread around the circumference of Taranaki’s “surf highway”. The work would explore sport is a form of performance that relates to both geography & weather and would be something between documentation of certain cultures of performance specific to surfers and a choreographed act designed to engage specifically with the format of multi-venue/muli-camera shooting and the geography local to the Taranaki surf scene. Both relationships of real-time and weather specifics would be explored by the project-which will be shot at various point-breaks that face between N and SW on the compass dial. The SCANZ residency is an ideal place to incubate and create this work because some of the other attendees (including Natalie Robertson) could work simultaneously at various locations with me on the project –and this presents a unique opportunity to create a video work of scale in the region.

This project would constitute the third major video installation work in a series of works investigating specialized ways of moving and navigating simultaneous video and environmental spaces and NZ agribusiness or sports leisure activities. I would like to involve some of the women’s and/or mens ex. NZ rep surfers and NZ national champions from the region. I have contacts in the NZ surfing industry from when I used to compete in the scene myself (competing at National level in NZ till 2002, and at European and World level in 2001/2002) including Heather Dent (NZ champion, and also a former USA rep surfer).

I am most interested in looking at the potential of a multi-venue (multiple surf-breaks) multi camera shoot for a video installation outcome (possibly up to 4 POV’s as with the sheep and motorcycle projects). I generally identify a performance possibility for participants (like surfers) and organize them for a singe-take (no edits) multi-camera shoot –and this project would also be produced using this stucturalist technique. I have already begun a related work in Ahipara (Northland) in which I simultaneously documented the passing utes, trucks, walking surfers, motoX riders as they accessed the three main surf spots near Ahipara (Blue house, Pines and Mukie2). Each point-break is 2kms apart. The stills below are taken from footage recorded at the 2nd point-break Muckie2. Ahipara in Northland presents a completely unique mix of word class surf and extraordinary 4×4 vehicle-culture in order for surfers to access the remote sites. This complicates reading the geographical environment in Ahipara because of the mix of mad-max vehicle culture and awe-inspiring pristine surf and surrounds. The Taranaki surf-scene on the other hand is defined by sprawling breaks with giant swell windows that catch swell from many directions that can be explored within 100kms drive of New Plymouth – and it is particular Taranaki-specific contexts for surf related performance the work sets out to explore.

Auckland based artist and academic in time-based media. Exhibits in national and international contemporary art contexts as well as film festival contexts (US awards in 2000 and 2004), with moving image work in the Wairoa Maori Film Festival 2008, International Film Festival of New Zealand five of the last eight years, feature film official selection NZIFF 2005.