Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau. The Artwork as a Living System

Sunday 31st March, 2024 - Bruce Sterling

ZKM | Karlsruhe
Sat, May 07, 2022 – Sun, July 31, 2022

The interactive installations in the exhibition tell the story of almost 30 years of artistic work by the Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau.

The exhibition »The Artwork as a Living System« provides an overview of the work of the Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau since the early 1990s. Moving between the subject areas of natural science, technology and art, Sommerer and Mignonneau pioneered the »Art of Interface«, in which innovative technical interfaces enable physical interaction between simulative visual worlds and the world of natural sensory organs. Very early on, they also used algorithms to represent not only the forms of the living, but also their evolution and growth. In fourteen installations, which are created only through the actions of the audience, man-made artificial systems are shown that exhibit behavior like natural living organisms. Technical devices originally designed by the artist couple produce virtual realities and immersive environments beyond the previous horizon of experience. Their works, now almost classics of digital art, open a new horizon in which artworks act as living systems. Few artists have shaped the transition from the moving image media phase to the living image media like Sommerer and Mignonneau.

Their media-art works, based on scientific findings, open up the possibility of exploring the growth of plants or the behavior of tiny computer-generated creatures such as flies and beetles and their embedding in complex ecosystems. Works such as »Interactive Plant Growing« (1992), »A-Volve« (1994), or »Portrait on the Fly« (2015), which are in the collection of the ZKM | Karlsruhe, simulate living systems in which touching real plants or moving in front of a screen generates transformations in digital space. The augmented reality installation »AR[t]chive« (2022), presented for the first time in the exhibition, allows visitors to explore in AR Sommerer and Mignnonneau’s archive.
The exhibition is a co-production of ZKM | Karlsruhe, OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH, Linz and iMal, Brussels. The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication in English edited by Karin Ohlenschläger, Peter Weibel and Alfred Weidinger in the Leonardo Book Series in collaboration with MIT Press.