Japan Media Arts Festival  

Art Division

Excellence Award

Rapid biography in a society of evolutionary lovers

Media installation

UNEMI Tatsuo / Daniel BISIG [Japan / Switzerland]

© 2017 Tatsuo Unemi and Daniel Bisig


In this installation, we watch as an evolutionary ecosystem simulator, which imitates a human society, automatically generates rapidly-unfolding life dramas. Thousands of individuals exist in a virtual space within the simulator. Men are angular, women are rounded, and children are smaller versions of those gender forms. “Objects” are represented as triangles. The progression of time is shown in steps, and one step represents 10 days. Lifetimes each last about 1.5 minutes, going through the cycles of birth, falling in love, separation, and death. Individuals try to woo those who have genes with appearances they desire regardless of gender, but because babies can only be born between opposite-sex couples, the individuals evolve to take on appearances that will attract the romantic interest of members of the opposite sex. There are those who fall in love with members of the same gender, and some even who fall for “objects.” The viewer can see the individuals moving around and sentences describing events in the lives of some of the sample individuals. The sentences are simultaneously read aloud by a speech synthesizer, which can be heard through the speaker along with sounds of a babies being born, voices of men and women professing their love, and funeral bells. The inorganic, logical simulation gives an objective look at the cycles of life we all lead. 


There are those who attempt to explain the origins of beauty through the theory of evolution and this, of course, should be verifiable through computerized simulations of ecosystems and societies. This installation work’s greatest significance comes from having done research into that very issue. However, sex, birth, and death are compelling life events which, under the theory of evolution, are discussed as genetic exchange, replication, and selection. If this piece were considered to have gone beyond the said significance, it would be due to this point. We are stunned by the fact that the clamorous human voices overlapping with sounds of funeral bells are emitted from only a very small sample of up to 8,000 life stories being generated within the span of a minute. The texts that instantaneously appear and disappear are just as the title says─rapid biographies─and they are epitaphs. And the mechanism that does things like assign individual names and give accounts of separations lets us view this work not as just a simulation or media art, but as a new type of realistic literature or criticism of existing literature backed by a sample of enormous quantity. I find this to be immensely moving. (NAKAZAWA Hideki)

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