Inspired by the case modding scene, a custom computer is built as a form of expanded sculpture. Inside the case, excess heat of over-clocked processors is recycled by an elaborate living ecosystem. The computer hardware is used as server for a new computer game. The objective of this game is to bring some of the main themes of Biomodd into an imaginative multiplayer game experience.
Both the computer structure and the game are developed with a group of biology, game and art enthusiasts. Exhibition visitors can also modify the piece: through playing they generate heat and hence influence the interior ecosystem.
Biomodd will have its own temporary character depending on each local version of it. Only parts of previous versions are integrated in each new structure.
Biomodd preparatory study
The first Biomodd version is developed at the Aesthetic Technologies Lab in Athens, Ohio. Collaborations are currently set up with departments of game design, electronic and computer engineering, telecommunications and biology. The objective is to compile an interdisciplinary team of 15-20 students.
All of the above intrigued me so i emailed Angelo and he was kind enough to answer my questions:
Can you give us more detail about the game itself?
– a multiplayer environment that is graphically and/or conceptually inspired by the ecological theme of the project,
– the game can be graphically very simple and strongly conceptual (e.g. The Marriage of Rod Humble) or more sophisticated in its visual style (e.g. The Endless Forest of Tale of Tales)
– the game concept will be developed through group discussions with all involved participants (including students from departments such as Biology and Engineering)
– a more profound interaction with the ecosystem than just heat exchange can be envisioned:
(a) a feedback system in which parameters of the developing organisms are fed back into the virtual world; in this way a metaorganism could be created living in both worlds simultaneously
(b) an interactive system using simple forms of robotics to manipulate the ecosystem from within the virtual world (â€˜The Telegardenâ€™ is a classic example)
How far are you in the development of Biomodd?
The Biomodd version I am building at the Aesthetic Technologies Lab is the very first one. Several other curators across Europe and the US have already shown interest to support subsequent versions. At the moment weâ€™re finishing a first prototype. Itâ€™s a human sized transparent structure that contains several suspended computer components and different types of plant life such as green algae and vines. The computer runs Linux (Fedora) and its monitor will be suspended downwards to illuminate a bed of fast-sprouting seeds. Basically, weâ€™re testing how close we can bring together the biological and electronic world. At the same time weâ€™re also exploring potential game concepts.
You use recycled parts for eco-related concerns?
Yes, partly for that. At the end of each version the art work is completely disassembled. Participants can take what is useful for them and I will keep some elements that can be integrated in a subsequent version. All the remaining components are donated to recycling centers and thrift stores.
Thereâ€™s also a conceptual motivation for using parts of previous versions in a new one. Essentially, this creates a very physical link between all the versions. It connects all the works. Apart from the re-use of electronics, every version will inevitably contain the â€œpresenceâ€? of all previous collaborators. I function as a sort of gateway for the whole undertaking and through me ideas and concepts from participants will be passed on to each new group. The re-use of material components further strengthens that aspect.
However, not only electronic components are recycled, I am also using microscopic algae that have functioned in several former art projects of mine. In 2004 I created my last algae installation piece for the exhibition â€˜This Place is Dreamingâ€™ in Brussels. I kept the algae in a dormant stage in my studio since then. I took a dried sample to the Aesthetic Technologies Lab and currently I am reviving the cells so I can use the same algae in Biomodd. Another thread that links a sequence of art works and experiencesâ€¦
The @Lab put the recorded webcast lecture online.
Photo credits: Jeff Lovett & Angelo Vermeulen.
UPDATE: on Saturday the exhibition Multispeak in de Witte Zaal in Ghent (Belgium) will open, featuring Biomodd. A live video steam will be displayed together with the first part of the Biomodd documentary made by filmmaker Morgan Riles.