an interactive installation

© 1994, Christa SOMMERER & Laurent MIGNONNEAU

supported by: ICC-NTT Intercommunication Gallery
Tokyo, Japan
NSCA, National Center for Supercomputing Applications
Urbana-Champaign University, Beckmann Institute
Illinois, USA
realized at: ATR Advanced Telecommunications Research Lab, Kyoto, Japan

A-Volve Concept

In the interactive real-time environment "A-Volve" visitors interact with virtual creatures in the space of a water filled glass pool. These virtual creatures are products of evolutionary rules and influenced by human creation and decision.

Designing any kind of shape and profile with their finger on a touch screen, visitors will create virtual three dimensional creatures, that are automatically "alive" and swim in the real water of the pool. The movement and behavior of the virtual creature is decided by its form, how the viewer was designing it on the touch screen.

Behavior in space is, so to speak, an expression of form. Form is an expression of adaptation to the environment.

Form and movement are closely connected, the creatures capability to move will decide its fitness in the pool. The fittest creature will survive longest and will be able to mate and reproduce. The creatures will compete by trying to get as much energy as possible. Thus predator creatures will hunt for prey creatures, trying to kill them.

The creatures also interact with the visitors, by reacting to their hands movement in the water. If a visitor tries to catch a creature, it will try to flee or stays still, if it gets caught. Thus the visitor is able to influence the evolution by for example protection preys against predators. If two strong creatures meet, they can create an offspring and a new creature can be born. It carries the genetic code of its parents. Mutation and cross-over provides a nature-like reproduction mechanism, that follows the genetic rules of Mendel. This newly born offspring will now also react and live in the pool, interacting with visitors and other creatures.

Algorithms, developed by Mignonneau and Sommerer ensure smooth and natural movements and "animal - like" behavior of the creatures. None of the creatures is pre calculated, they are all born exclusively in real time through the interaction of the visitors and the interaction of the creatures . Thus a unlimited variety of forms will be possible, representing human and evolutionary rules. By closely connecting the real natural space of the water to the unreal virtual living space of the creatures, "A-Volve" minimizes the borders between "real" and "unreal", creating a further step (after "Interactive Plant Growing") in the search of "Natural Interfaces" and "Real-Time Interaction"


Interaction in "A-Volve" is performed in several layers:


Drawing the 2 dimensional shape and profile of any possible form with their fingers onto a touch sensitive screen, visitors will create three dimensional creatures.

A special editor provides that the visitors can create any kind of form and change and modify the design in real-time. Each creature is built by 400 vertex points (x, y, z) coming from the shape and profile lines of the viewers drawing on the touch screen.

The x , y and z vertices, as well as values for colors and textures (decided by the speed of drawing) provides a genetic code of total values.This genetic code together with a movement algorithm, provides the possibility, that each creature will swim and move individually different, according to its form. The algorithm describes a wave function, which pulses like a muscle from the front of the creatures body towards the rear, pushing the creature forward and backward.

This wave function is dependent on the values of the x and y vertices, allpoints follow the wave and will create a very natural "Jellyfish" like movement. After the viewer has completed his drawing, he will send the creature to the pool. It will be immediately "alive" and will move and swim as three dimensional creature in the water of the pool, looking for food and mating partners.


These creatures are sensitive to the viewer's hand movements in the water; they react according to the viewer's behavior; the viewer can catch them, irritate them and communicate with them in real time. If the viewer "touches" a creature, it will avoid the viewer's hand and try to flee or sometimes come back to the viewer to "play" with him.

The visitor can also protect a prey, by stopping the predator, so the prey can escape. He also can try to push creatures together, and promote their mating process.


These living and reacting creatures will also interact with each other in the pool, which have been created by other visitors before or were born by their parents.


Fitness is described as the ability to reach a target in a certain time.

The fitness and speed of movement for each creature is dependent on its form and muscle function. All creatures thus will have different fitness. Their fitness will decide how well they can swim , survive and mate in the pool.An internal vision system allows the creature to check it's current position and status in the pool, deciding, whether it will become a predator or prey.

The fittest creature will try to hunt weaker creatures, in order to kill themand "eat" their energy. If a creature gets caught, it will die and its energy will be added to the predators energy. As soon as a creature reaches a certain amount of energy, it will be able to mate and reproduce. The weaker creatures will flee, by trying to escape. Creatures can die in 3 different ways:

Hunger- they couldn't add enough energy by killing other creatures

Natural death- a certain maximum life time was reached

Killed - when a prey gets attacked and killed by a predator


Two forms have the possibility to merge and to create a new form, which is the result of the genetic code of its parents. If two fit creatures will meet, they will create an offspring that carries the genetic code of its parents. Mutations and crossover will provide natural diversity, creating an evolutionary system that is changing and evolving in time.


The newly born creature is very small and needs time to grow up. Its parents will stay alive until the creature reaches its adult size. The will defend the child against predators and attack them as the come near.


As the genetic code of the offspring is transported from generation to generation and the emphasis of the system is based upon selection for fittest creatures, the system is able to evolve towards fitter creatures.

Although the evolution could take place by itself and without outside influence, the visitor and his interaction will significantly influence the evolutionary process. The visitors then can be seen as selection mechanism as well.


By creating creatures, observing them in the pool and influencing their behavior, the visitors will identify with their creatures. The interaction between the visitors happens mainly through the virtual creatures, which mate and fight with each other. Thus the visitors will also communicate with each other, by supporting their creatures in the pool.


"A-Volve" is a pool of artificially living creatures, that are open to outside influences by reacting and interacting with their "natural" and "artificial" environment.

"A-Volve" reduces the borders between real and unreal, by connecting reality to "non-reality." Human decision in the creation of a new form and the rules of evolution and selection will create an environment that is open to all possible modifications and selections, following the laws of evolution and creation. The visitor becomes part of the evolutionary system, he is a partner of the virtual organisms and gives and promotes their "artificial life."

Water as the metaphor for birth and basic evolution is the medium for this artificial life "pool", that is open to its real environment.

"A-Volve" (c) 94-97, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau


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A-Volve Exhibitions

2024 The Artwork as a Living System at the Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao (February 7th until  May 26th, 2024)
exhibition Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau
Curators: Karin Ohlenschläger
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing", "A-Volve", "Phototropy", "Life Writer", "Mobile Feelings II", "Portrait on the Fly", "Haze Express", "Eau de Jardin", "People on the Fly", "Fly Plotter Portraits", "Digital Fly Portraits", "Scavengers", "The Value of Art", "Fly Objects", "Ar(t)chive", and "ToBee"
Co-production in collaboration with the ZKM, Karlsruhe (DE) and the OÖ Landes-Kultur, Linz (AT)
- Bilbao, Spain

2023 The Artwork as a Living System at iMAL Brussels (from April 14th to Sept 24th 2023)
Retrospective exhibition Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau
Curators: Karin Ohlenschläger
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing", "A-Volve", "Phototropy", "Life Writer", "Mobile Feelings II", "Portrait on the Fly", "Haze Express", "Eau de Jardin", "People on the Fly", "Fly Plotter Portraits", "Digital Fly Portraits", "Scavengers", "The Value of Art", "Fly Objects", "Ar(t)chive", and "ToBee"
Co-production in collaboration with the ZKM, Karlsruhe (DE) and the OÖ Landes-Kultur, Linz (AT)
- Brussels, Belgium

2022 OK Zentrum Linz "The Artwork as a Living System" (2nd Sept 2022 - 26th Feb 2023)
Retrospective exhibition
Curators: Alfred Weidinger and Genoveva Rückert-Sommerauer
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing", "A-Volve", "Phototropy", "Life Writer", "Life Spacies II", "Mobile Feelings II", "Portrait on the Fly", "Haze Express", "Eau de Jardin", "People on the Fly", "Fly Plotter Portraits", "Digital Fly Portraits", "Scavengers", "The Value of Art", "Fly Objects", "Anthroposcope", "Antopolis", "Ar(t)chive", and "ToBee".
- Linz, Austria

2022 ZKM Retrospective "The Artwork as a Living System" (07.May.2022 – 31.July.2022)
(video trailer) (STIR World article)
Retrospective exhibition
Curated by Peter Weibel (Cuator), Jessica Menger (Co-Curator), Philipp Ziegler (Co-Curator). Nina Liechti (Curatorial Assistance)
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.
Based on an idea of Karin Ohlenschläger.
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.
Featuring "Interactive Plant Growing", "A-Volve", "Phototropy", "Life Writer", "Life Spacies II", "Mobile Feelings II", "Portrait on the Fly", "Haze Express", "Eau de Jardin", "People on the Fly", "Fly Plotter Portraits", "Digital Fly Portraits", "Scavengers", "The Value of Art", "Fly Objects", "Ar(t)chive", and "ToBee".
- Karlsruhe, Germany


2021 ZKM Karlsruhe "Bio Medien"
Curators: Peter Weibel, Sarah Donderer, Daria Mille
Exhibition: Sa, 18.12.2021 – So, 28.08.2022
Featuring "A-Volve"
- Karlsruhe, Germany

2020 Sapporo Art Biennale
Curators: Taro Amano and Agnieszka Kubicka-Dzieduszycka
Featuring "A-Volve"
- Sapporo, Japan

2018 City University Hong Kong
Exhibition "Animals"
Featuring A-Volve and Portrait on the Fly
Curator: Jeffrey Shaw and Paul Lam

- Hong Kong, China

2012 Laznia Centre for Contemporary(Art, 14. May .2012 - 24. June.2012)
Solo Exhibition "Wonderful Life, Art& Science Meeting"
Curator: Ryszard Kluszinsky
Artists: Laurent Mignonneau & Christa Sommerer
- Gdansk, Poland

2011 Arts Santa Monica Barcelona (1st June 2011- 30th September 2011)
Curator: Josep Perello & irma vilà òdena
Solo exhibition: "A-Volve, Eau de Jardin, Phototropy, Life Spacies II, Mobile Feelings
- Barcelona, Spain

2007 Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud (March 16 – August 5)
- Cologne, Germany

2006 ICC Museum
- Tokyo, Japan

2005 Van Gogh Museum
“Fierce Friends: Artists & Animals in the Industrial Age” (curated by Stefan Blühm)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands

2003 ArtInteractive Gallery
- Cambridge, MA, USA

2001 Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie
"L'homme transforme" - collection: "A-Volve"
- Paris, France

2000 Miramon - Kutxaespacio de la Ciencia
Kutxa Museum of Science, permanent collection: "A-Volve"
- San Sebastian, Spain

2000 ZOOM Kindermuseum - Time Travel Exhibition
- Vienna, Austria

1997 Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum
"InterAct" - Schluesselwerke Interaktiver Kunst"
- Duisburg, Germany

1997 Center for the Arts
Yerba Buena Gardens
- San Francisco, USA

1996 Kunsthalle Bonn
A-Volve" exhibition
- Bonn, Germany

1996 NTT Tokei - NHK
permanent installation "A-Volve"
- Nagoya, Japan

1996 ARCO'96 - Art Fair
represented by Fundacion Arte Y Tecnologia
- Madrid, Spain

1995 Interactive Media Festival
"Ovation Award" - Los Angeles, USA

1995 The Interaction '95
International interactive computer art
- Ogaki City, Gifu Japan

1995 WRO - Audio, Video & Computer Art Festival
- Wroclaw, Poland

1994 ICC Intercommunication Gallery
ICC-Intercommunication Center, 2 exhibitions
- Tokyo, Japan

1994 Siggraph 94
"The Edge"
- Orlando, Florida USA

1994 Ars Electronica '94
"Golden Nica Award"
- Linz, Austria