- bringing life to the KPN Tower Rotterdam

Pixelsex: 16-20 February 2006 | parallel to Art Rotterdam '06
watch impressions from 9-11 September 2005

Pixelsex - a short genealogy....

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myxos & science
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Asked in 2003 to think about a concept for the art fa├žade in Munich I also thought about to work with cellular automata on the minimalistic internet based light wall. Well I decided to work with another concept, which was finally awarded in 2004 with the International Media Award of the ZKM. But I also worked with cellular automata at the art facade. Certain dynamic movements in large pixel fields like the WMAP picture of the cosmic background radiation were yet programmed via a cellular automaton based on the changing colour values.

ca based movement

A concept espcially designed for the façades facilities
When I saw the first time the light façade of the KPN tower in Rotterdam built by Renzo Piano I immediately thought about to show there a project with cellular automata. The façade in Rotterdam of 90 by 40 metres with 41 by 22 lightelements is much more bigger than the façade in Munich with 9 by 6 metre and totally just 76 light panels. But a crucial difference is that the KPN façade has got no colour light elements but only monochrome green lights, that just can’t be switched on and off. This makes the façade minimalistic too - so an ideal platform to work with cellular automata.

What is a cellular automaton?
A cellular automaton consists of cell grid where each cell follows a simple rule how to interact with its neighbourhood. In many ways cellular automata differ in its behaviour from other mathematical simulation methods. Because of its network character they are very simple but also very complex ,because the behaviour of the whole grid can change even with one changed pixel value. The interconnections and the cycle of births and deaths of pixels especially in John Conways Game of Life gave me the intuition to talk about pixel sex. The essay Universal synthesizer and window - cellular automata as a new kind of cybernetic images tells more about the organization principle to find in the recent book Imagery in the 21st Century.

Conway's game of life, Wikimedia

Pixel Sex
“Pixel Sex” brings life to the light façade. Yet Conway’s game of life changes the façade into a matrix of an amoebae like coming and going. But the concept even intends to couple pixel sex more to real life using not only the game of life but relevant simulations of life used today in the life sciences. Cellular automata (ca) are used there for instance to simulate processes in cells or in the primordial rna soup.
As the project at the Kunstfassade in Munich "Pixelsex" is accompanied by an intensive dialogue with the sciences. In context of cellular automata I got in touch with Andreas Deutsch from the High Performance Computing Centre of TU Dresden, an eminent expert for ca in the context of biomodeling. He recommened me Jörn Starrus, who transmits now in realtime the movements of his ca based myxo bacteria. Therefore the façades programming has been enhanced to receive live images via the web.
The special reason to cooperate in this way with the life sciences is to bring pixels back from mathematics to a classical topic: life and the human body. You should not forget that the presentation happens in the public space and needs to include the spectator. It does formally by its organic movement but also conceptually: The spectator identifies with the presentation more if he knows that it has something to do with the processes in his own body.

click to watch
how the myxos work

A further important factor plays time. This is why "Pixelsex" brings the façade for the first time to the web. So the simulations running at TU Dresden are transmitted in near real time to Rotterdam! The new facilities can also be used in the future to show nonlinear content on the light wall.

V2& WWW Festival - large public attention
The project was commissioned by KPN and curatorially accompanied by the V 2 . In September 2005 it was shown for the first time during the Wereld van Witte de With Festival. Finally it is shown again during Art Rotterdam '06 that takes place just around the corner from the KPN Telecom Tower.

simulation for the KPN tower
recent project "I see what I see not", Kunstfassade München Cellular
Automaton Modeling of Biological Pattern Formation
Myxobacteria: wikipedia article about the bacteria living in the soil
Page of a course I gave on cellular automata (German)

Related projects

Kunstfassade Munich


concept: Tim Otto Roth
automaton programming: Jörn Starruß/ TU Dresden
re-programming façade technique: Andreas Walz/ Cologne Digital

August/ September 2005