1996, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau
Source: 1996, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau

(collective) Sommerer / Mignonneau

Co-workers & Funding
developed for and installed at AEC Ars Electronica Center, Linz Austria

supported by: ATR Media Integration and Communications Research Lab Kyoto Japan
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GENMA is a machine, that enables us to manipulate 'Nature'.

Nature exemplary is represented as artificial nature of a micro scale: abstract amoeboid artificial three-dimensional forms and shapes.
Principles of artificial life and genetic programming are implemented in those forms or "creatures", allowing the visitor to manipulate their virtual genes in real time.

Looking into a mirrored glass box the visitor sees those creatures as stereo projections in front of him. By putting his hands into the glass box, he will try to grab the creatures that are virtually floating in the space of the box.
The genetic code of each creature is schematically displayed on a touch screen. By using his finger on the touch screen the visitor can manipulate the genetic code of the creature and thus in real time change and modifying its look and appearance in the glass box.

Selecting and merging different parts of the genetic string, recombining them and modifying their genetics, he can engaging in more intense experiments and learn how to create complex forms out of seemingly simple structures at the very beginning.

Taking parts of the genetic strings, cutting, pasting or multiplying them, adding mutations and variations, GENMA allows the visitor to explore the tools of genetic manipulation and satisfies our inner wish to change and transform the nature we know.

The wish of understanding nature has lead mankind to the development of natural sciences; these have become increasingly skilled in dissecting all parts of nature and it's inner structures. Modern genetics will for example soon be able to tell us which part of our genes will be responsible for which part of our body. And as history shows, we will not fall behind with trying and experimenting with our new acquired knowledge. The seeking for knowledge and the fascination of trials and initially innocent experiments shall be captured in GENMA.

GENMA is a kind of dream machine, that allows us to "play" scientist and as we watch our selves in doing so, it also mirrors the absurdity of this action and interaction. By using science, namely principles of artificial life, as source for creation, GENMA also wants to address the question of what it means to manipulate and what impact it will have on us in the future.

Nevertheless, GENMA doesn't take position in the common "good-bad" classification or in the sense of "political correctness", but wants to reflect our fascination for the unknown and unexplored.

On a visual level GENMA furthermore explores the concept of "natural design" or "auto design", a design that is not any more prefixed and controlled by the artists, but represents the degree of interest and interaction of each single visitor. Each visitor will be creating the forms he wants to see, aided by artificial genetics, mutation, evolution and manipulation. To push it further, the audience thus will become "creators" or "artists" themselves, using the power and possibilities of such tools.

GENMA is not a tool in the scientific sense. Its only purpose is to reflect on itself as an autonomous system, that uses science to emphasizes the question of what it means to manipulate, change and interact.
  • aesthetics
    • animated
  • genres
    • bioart
      • genetic art
    • installations
      • interactive installations
  • subjects
    • Art and Science
      • code
      • machines
      • scientific images
    • Body and Psychology
      • genetics
    • Power and Politics
      • manipulation
  • technology
    • displays
      • electronic displays
        • computer monitors
      • non-electronic displays
        • mirrors (as non-electronic displays)
Technology & Material
1 large concave mirror (1 meter diameter)
2 large flat single sided mirrors
1 touch screen monitor
1 flat monitor screen 21” to 32”
1 Computer
1 Entirely mirror covered wooden construction
1 large concave mirror (1 meter diameter)
2 large flat single sided mirrors
1 touch screen monitor
1 flat monitor screen 21” to 32”
3D form generator
Genetic Algorithm
GUI Interface
3D optical Illusion (users gaze dependant)
  • Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »GENMA-Genetic Manipulator.« In Ars Electronica ´96. Memesis of the Future, edited by Art Electronica, 294-295. Wien, New York: Springer Verlag, 1996.