© Jon McCormack

Jon McCormack

Eden ,
Co-workers & Funding
  • Eden
    320 × 240
  • Eden
    320 × 240
  • Eden
    320 × 240
Eden is an interactive, self-generating, artificial ecosystem. A cellular world is populated by collections of evolving creatures. Creatures move about the environment, making and listening to sounds, foraging for food, encountering predators and possibly mating with each other. Over time, creatures evolve fitness to the landscape.

Eden was inspired by time spent in the wilderness of Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory, Australia.

Eden has four seasons per year and each year lasts 600 days.

There are three basic types of matter in the world:
Bio Mass
Sonic Animal

Creatures begin life in the world with very little knowledge. Over time, they change and learn to adapt to their environment. Evolution of behaviour leading to mating usually takes about 5 Eden years to discover. Behaviours that are more complex emerge between 7 and 75 Eden years and beyond. Many creatures die during this time. If a creature can mate before it dies, it passes on its genetic material to its offspring, who inherit the capabilities of their parents.

The creatures can see (at short distances) and hear. The sounds you hear while Eden is running are the sounds the creatures make. They can recognise the tonal 'colour' of the sound they hear and identify its direction. Through evolution, creatures learn to make sounds and to hear the sounds of others. In this way, the system creates a sonic landscape that is experienced by people within the installation space while Eden is evolving. Sound is only made by a creature if it improves the survival of the genes that lead to such behaviour. For example, in some evolutions of Eden, creatures use sound to help them mate or find food. In other evolutions, they use sound to keep people within the physical space of the installation.

Eden could be considered an artificial life world that uses sound, or a generative composition system for experimental audio and image. One of the aims of the work is to exploit the emergent properties and relations between the people who experience the work and the open-ended nature of artificial evolution. The work deliberately uses simple, non-representational imagery to visualise the world, creating a kind of 'codespace' between land-scape and process-scape. Further, the boundaries between the real and virtual spaces are playfully made ambiguous, confusing spatial and sonic boundaries.

Installation Configuration

The work operates in a darkened room approximately 6m x6m. Two large translucent projection screens form an ‘X’ shape in the center of the room, resulting in multi-layered images that appear to float through space and onto the surrounding walls. The intent is to confuse the boundaries between the physical and virtual spaces. A four channel sound system creates a unique and constantly changing multidimensional sonic landscape -the sonification of the creatures communicating with each other in the world.


Twelve motion sensors embedded in the exhibition space detect the movement of people experiencing the work, creating a reactive relationship between the real and virtual environments.
The work does not have an ‘interface’ in any traditional sense -there is no language of interactivity for people experiencing the work to learn. The movement of people within the physical space has a causal relationship with the behaviour and dynamics of the virtual space. For example, movement within the physical space affects creatures’ empathy towards each other. The biomass ‘feeds’ off the movement of people within the space -an empty room corresponds to a barren environment. If there is nobody in the physical space, all life in the virtual space will die out.
Over time, creatures (and hence the sounds they make) adapt according to the behaviour of people in the space (or is it the other way around?) Creatures can learn to exploit the movement of people using sound -for example if the sounds are interesting, people will stay in the installation area longer, their movement providing resources that aid in the creatures’ survival. Again, this creates ambiguous causal relationships between the real and the virtual.

Sound in the video documentation

All the sounds heard in the video are recorded live though a single evolution of the system during an exhibition of the work. The sounds you hear on the video are generated by the artwork itself -they were not designed or composed in a traditional way. Each evolutionary run of Eden results in different soundscapes. Unlike conventional compositions or recordings, the sound generated by Eden is active, self-generating, always different and never-ending.

Jon McCormack
  • aesthetics
    • generative
    • interactive
  • genres
    • bioart
      • genetic art
    • installations
      • interactive installations
    • sound art
      • sound installations
  • subjects
    • Nature and Environment
      • ecology
      • environment
      • evolution
      • Nature
Technology & Material
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