Casey Reas (US)

A special pane of glass—a so-called “responsive window”—forms the boundary between reality and the world of “Tissue.” The user can gain access to it by just knocking.

At the centerpiece of the installation are autonomously functioning software machines that translate the user’s knocking into graphic form. Every line that is visible on the "Responsive Window" describes the path taken by a machine in reaction to the stimulus of the knocking. If you impart a number of such stimuli, then, as a result of the highly sophisticated relationship between the simple input and the fluid, visual output, you come to develop over time an understanding of the entire system.

The idea that led to “Tissue” came from the book “Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology” by Valentino Braitenberg. In it, this neuro-anatomist who dealt with brain structures describes how personality and behavior are formed by the layout of structures just like they are in computers.

“Tissue” combines simple lines of code with one another in order to simulate highly complex behavior on the part of the machines, each of which is outfitted with two software sensors for the perception of environmental stimuli and two software motors for locomotion. The relation between the sensors and the propulsion unit determines the individual behavior of the respective machine. All of them move about at differing speeds in different directions in their own action radius, although they are all the same size and have the same maximum speed and turning velocity. Every machine is continually changing its direction and speed depending upon its position with respect to its surroundings.

The knocking by the user has a direct but very vague influence upon the software. Small changes in the location of the source of the stimuli bring about major changes in the machines’ movements. Thus, you cannot direct them completely, but you can provide stimulus to and intuitively understand their behavior. “Tissue” is an example of software that provides a dramatic contrast to what are typically rather rigid, mathematical constructs by engendering fluid and unexpected interaction.

“Tissue” runs as an application on the “Responsive Window” developed by Joe Paradiso at the MIT Media Lab.

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Casey Reas