<em>Darwinian Straw Mirror</em>

Daniel Rozin
Darwinian Straw Mirror, 2010
Video camera, custom software (back and white, silent), computer, 46″ screen
Dimensions variable, portrait or landscape orientation

This is the first piece in the series of Darwinian Software Mirrors. The basis of behavior in this software artwork is Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection, which is shaped by mutations that occur at random. In the Darwinian Straw Mirror, programmed “evolutionary pressure” pushes the artwork to resemble the viewer’s mirrored image. Engaging the viewer with interactive response, each work varies the formal properties of line, luminosity, and tempo, as screen-based pictures are built improvisationally. As time goes by the software gets closer and closer to this goal. The process begins with thousands of randomly generated straw strands. Each strand’s placement on screen is random, as well as its rotation and color value (which appears grey, and is based on a spectrum between black and white). Next, a process of ‘selection’ is applied by the software. Each strand is evaluated, as it added, for whether it clarifies or obscures the overall image of the viewer. If it clarifies the picture, then the strand will remain. If it obscures the image, the then the straw will be removed. As this process is repeated, an abstracted picture of the immediate surroundings and viewers emerges, similar to a mirror.

As the image increases in likeness to the surroundings, the evolutionary pressure lessens. Fewer straws are added, bringing the composition to a static resolution. However, any movement detected by the camera will change this, causing cause the evolutionary pressure to resume and setting the straws back into motion. “Graphically, I find it very interesting to produce an image that is constrained by elements of endless straight lines. This problem was also investigated in my 2010 sculpture X by Y, which also creates detailed scenes using lines alone,” says Rozin. “Elongated straight lines can accentuate some features of an image while repressing others, such as local detail. In the Darwinian Straw Mirror, its outcome resembles a quick charcoal sketch, yet this is produced entirely by a regime of randomness and selection.”

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