working artists


Marc Downie
Paul Kaiser
Shelley Eshkar

artist statement | technical statement | process


Driving the "point creatures" that make up the Loops piece is a behavioral "script". This 10-minute script (which is looped throughout the piece) does not dictate what behaviors these creatures perform, but it does modify "behavioral tendencies" and opportunities for adaptation.

The creation of the Loops piece, therefore, consisted of two main tasks. First, a vocabulary of visual styles, behaviors, ways of connecting the points and motion qualities needed to be created. Second, the script, an excerpt of which is shown here, was assembled. Both of these two tasks were achieved collaboratively and interactively. While a version of the Loops system was running, the artists manipulated the rendering, visualized the behavior and modified the stored vocabulary of the point creatures in real time using a network of computers synchronized to the main behavior system.

Throughout the script there are references to terms such as "tendral" or "amoeba". These are names that the artists used to talk about the basic stylistic vocabulary built for the piece. They refer to behavioral tendencies, connection topologies and/or rendering styles. These common labels became increasingly important as the piece's stylistic vocabulary developed.

By changing how gradually or suddenly new behavioral tendencies are introduced into the creatures by the script we can modify the abruptness of the transition. If we quickly force a behavioral tendency to have a very high value we startle creatures into revaluating their behaviors. But by gradually introducing new behavior we can create hybrid and "indecisive" states in the colony.

The creatures are responsible for showing how they are connected to other points. Sometimes they choose to connect themselves to points that make sense in a traditional joint hierarchy. However, they can choose to produce complex "cat's cradles" or sparse points.

The way in which the point creatures adapt their geometry to indicate how they are "connected" to other points change throughout the piece. One of the earliest styles we built was the "tentative tendril" growth style, where points seem to be gently seeking nearby points in the hand.

"Force propagation" refers to the virtual dispersive medium that the point creatures are "embedded in". Creatures can inject force into what is in essence a simple cloth simulation, to perturb and expand the geometry of nearby creatures.

"Forest fire" message propagation refers to a complex extension of the "force propagation". Instead of passing force into a simple physics simulation, points pass messages of behavioral tendency. This creates a deliberately brittle positive feedback system. Behaviors change between points in a way similar to how fire spreads in a forest. These complex behavioral dynamics were extensively simulated in isolation and could be visualized while the piece was running.