Random International

Foil, motors, helium, cameras, custom swarm algorithm

ZOOLOGICAL is a hypnotic and immersive installation by artist collective Random International, developed in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor and artists from electronic music label Warp Records.

Large levitating white spheres (each with an diameter of 1,5m) as visual elements of the installation ZOOLOGICAL, possess swarm intelligence. The single spheres move autonomously, but also initiate a collective behavior, based on their individual motion – completely detached from external remote control and human-actuated triggering of the artificial organisms.

Once initiated by an algorithm within their individual electronic processing system, their movement and behavior is completely independent and self-referential.

Via concentrically arranged infrared cameras, the spherical objects permanently locate and determine their own space position, as well as the location of other subjects present in the room, like human visitors. The spheres float in elegant harmony, resembling the motion of bird swarms, but occasionally deviate, in order to approach the visitor which they seem to observe with curiosity.

Since the white spheres independently regulate their location in space, their behavior sometimes seems tantalizing or even slightly menacing. As a sphere approaches the visitor, the others follow persistently, until a white wall of spheres resembles a threatening gesture, only to resolve itself – out of nowhere. These responsive, even sensitive machines create a sense of encounter with a digital form of organism that reflects the free will as a human concept. Far from being similar to humans in terms of physique, these beings are completely alien but nonetheless refer to our behaviors. The so-called free will is subjected to a noticeable test and the visitor is encouraged to question it and its meaning. But the true mystery in the evocation of life is movement: Dance as a form of social interaction or simply as emotional expression, proves to be the key to understanding and recreate life itself.

The spheres communicate via movement, interact with the visitors as well as with temporarily introduced dance performers. The objects do not follow the audience with mechanically programmed inevitability, but out of a complex, friendly intension. Performers and sound are additional protagonists, with scores developed by choreographer Wayne McGregor and the musician Mark Pritchard. The dance performance reacts to the installation as well as to the specially adapted sound composition, whose wafting bass surfaces and imposing drones combine with other elements of the performative installation project, to compose an engaging over-all environment. It reflects the correspondence with its opposite and investigates the relationship between the human body and technological devices. ZOOLOGICAL goes beyond the technical implementation of an extravagant idea.

The project evokes an adjustment of self-evident values ​​and convictions until today. It represents the result of an innovative thinking process, culminating in a unique technical organism that exhibits patterns of behavior that tie in with existential forms of biological survival strategies and serves as a first insight of posthumanism.