Artwork by Scott Draves and the Electric Sheep

Electric Sheep

Scott Draves
* 1968 in Washington D.C. (US), lives and works in New York City (US)

Electric Sheep
1999, Video

With the public availability of the internet and computers spreading, the field of crowd art reaches a new level. Artists can combine the computing powers of thousands of computers worldwide into on supercomputer that performs complex operations over night or while the individual computers are unused.

In 1992 Scott Draves developed the open source Fractal flame algorithm, an iterated function system that creates Fractal flames. The algorithm requires much more computing power than normal users could afford at time. In 1999, Scott Draves created a distributed computing project for the public that was as a screensaver showing floks while rendering new sheep in the background.

A server combines multiple animations (sheep) into a flock. Each sheep carries its parameters as a genetic code and the server may mate sheep or create mutations, resulting in new fractals. A user vote based ranking algorithm decide whether a sheep should live or die.

Electric Sheep creates an entire ecosystem of crowd-generated visuals resulting in a code-based distributed art system. It has no specific look and changes over time with the DNA, the fractal algorithm, as a base structure defining the project.


Daniel Heiss
* 1978 in Munich (DE), lives and works in Karlsruhe (DE)

2017, computer, monitor, microphone 

For decades, the interface between people and computers was limited to the input of text via a keyboard. The wish for a more intuitive and natural way to communicate with computers, however, goes back at least as many decades.

Only in recent years has direct interaction with computers through spoken language become possible due to tremendous progress in the areas of language recognition and processing (»Natural Language Processing«, NLP). Neural networks make it possible to transcribe the acoustic signal of human language word-for-word into text form. With the help of linguistic models (e.g. word embeddings), the recognized word groups can then be analyzed semantically in order to put the individual fragments in context. Modern algorithms make it possible to use this context to translate text into almost every language in the world in a fully automated way, effectively in real time.

The fictional Babel fish from Douglas Adams’ »The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy« is now within reach in real life.

Speak into the microphone and name the language into which your statement is to be translated. Along with the translation, every spoken word will be reproduced in a linear (one-dimensional) pixel display in the form of optical Morse code.

Installation view »Open Codes«

Genealogy of the Digital Code

ZKM Karlsruhe

»Genealogy of the Digital Code«
2018, Augmented reality and wall print

The »Genealogy of the Digital Code« displays the history of digital codes in the form of an interactive wall chart. Monitors move across a virtual panorama, which stretches along the wall space. With the »Linear Navigator«, visitors can move along a high-resolution timeline and watch short videos embedded in it that visualize the history of the digital code. In this way information can be called up on milestones in the development of computer technology from 1800 to the present-day: development of the binary code, early computers, the first neural network, modern computers, and the development of artificial intelligence. Linear navigation renders the chronology of development easy to grasp.
This virtual timeline is embedded in real infographics, which stretch along the entire wall and further contextualize the virtual chronology.

Idea: Peter Weibel
Conception, realization: ZKM_Institute for Visual Media
Project management: Bernd Lintermann
Editors: Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás, Magdalena Stöger, Olga Timurgalieva
Software: Bernd Lintermann, Nikolaus Völzow
Video post-production and graphics: Moritz Büchner, Frenz Jordt,
Christina Zartmann