What is the relationship between man and machine? Is open source a sustainable way to run a creative society? Can digital creations have the subtlety we know in the natural world? These are the issues addressed by Scott Draves work; he creates art by writing software that runs an internet distributed supercomputer consisting of 450,000 computers and people, creating images as a form of artificial life, each with its own genome, generated by thousands of numbers that define how it looks and moves. The first versions of this algorithm date from 1992.
Draves created a new collective intelligence–the Electric Sheep–in 1999; it has been evolving and developing since. The system is based on an open source screensaver that anyone can download and run. All the computers work together to render the animations, or “sheep” (it takes an hour to render each frame, or one day of work per second or animation). People contribute their creativity and aesthetics, via open source, crowd source, and by voting. Sheep with favorable votes mate with each other and reproduce according to a genetic algorithm. Hence the flock evolves to satisfy its human audience. This popular open source version makes designs that are the basis for his fine art.
By using the screensaver as a design laboratory and factory, he realizes museum-quality collectors’ edition pieces. Draves selects sheep that satisfy his own aesthetics, and recreates them in high definition and slow motion-editing and assembling them into final pieces. The ultimate creations are painterly in aesthetic. Sales of this fine art support the open source code and server network used to create it, making the flock self-sustaining. By applying supercomputer power and the techniques of artificial intelligence to image synthesis he creates works beyond geometry, the mechanical, and the limitations of a single human creator, all with a fine level of detail rarely seen in digital art. When you see them we hope you will be more open to accepting the machine as part of yourself.
Scott Draves a.k.a. Spot is a visual and software artist living in New York City. Draves’ software artworks are released as open source and have been used for two decades by many other artists and designers in their own work.