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© 94-97, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau


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Archive of Digital Art (ADA). “(collective) Sommerer / Mignonneau - »A-Volve«”. (retrieved 2020-21-10). @online{ADAartistprofile, author = {Archive of Digital Art (ADA)}, title = {(collective) Sommerer / Mignonneau - »A-Volve«}, url = {}, urldate = {retrieved 2020-21-10}
1 large Watertight acrylic pool filled with water
1 active filter water pump
1 infra Red Video Camera
1 retro-projection screen (1994 - 2017)
1 video projector (1994 - 2017)
1 large 85” flat screen (2018 -)
1 powered Loud Speakers
1 touch screen monitor 10” to 15” (1994 - 2017)
1 touch tablet 10” (2018 -)
1 wooden Podium for the pool
1 wooden Podium for the touch screen
1 computer with 3D graphic board
1 Video camera
Camera tracking hardware (1994 - 2005)
Multiple hand position extraction directly from video signal
Camera tracking software (2006 -)
Touch screen
3D Surface of revolution principles
Hydrodynamical propulsion estimation of the 3D creatures according to their movements
Genetic Algorithms for the reproduction process
Hand tracking
3D Soft bodies simulation
Stereoscopic sound generation according to creatures position and movements
Descriptions & Essays
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 "bear" 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"
Christa Sommerer 13-11-2020

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
Christa Sommerer: A-Volve, 13-11-2020, in: Archive of Digital Art
Oliver Grau 07-10-2014
Sommerer and Mignonneau’s real-time installation A-Volve, developed in the United States and Japan with the support of ICC and winner of Ars Electronica’s Golden Nica award in 1994 for interactive art, allows observers to create artificial life forms, to interact with them, and watch them live, procreate, and die. The goal is to make the virtual space come alive, this time not with simulated plants but with virtual creatures: subjectlike software agents. The observers create “their” creatures by drawing an outline and cross-section on a small digital touch screen, which a high definition projector throws onto a mirror measuring 100 x 150 cm, which is the floor of a shallow pool of water with the dimensions 180 x 135 x 15 cm. The pool stands on a podium 3 m2 in the center of a room with black walls that is almost completely dark. The enveloping blackness of the surrounding space makes the artificial image creatures appear even more plastic and alive as they move in the illuminated water, automatically powered by the computer in real time. Gathered around the pool, their “creators” watch the survival of their amorphous, surprisingly lifelike creatures, which appear to swim and wiggle in the water, obeying the dictates of evolutionary programming. In this bright virtual habitat, Sommerer and Mignonneau stage the popular version of Darwin’s principle, “survival of the fittest”: Eat or be eaten. – Virtual art: from illusion to immersion, 2003, pp. 300-302.
Oliver Grau: A-Volve, 07-10-2014, in: Archive of Digital Art
Kluszczyński, Ryszard W.. »art@science: About Relations between Art and Science.« In Towards The Third Culture: The Co-Existence of Art, Science and Technology, edited by Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, 32-42. Gdańsk: Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, 2011.
Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
Grau, Oliver. »Novas Imagens da Vida: Realidade virtual e arte genética.« In Arte e Vida no Século XXI: Tecnologia, ciéncia e criatividade, edited by Diana Dominguez, 285-303. Sao Paulo, Brazil: Editora UN, 2003.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »Art as a Living System.« In Art @ Science, edited by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, 148-161. New York, Wien: Springer Verlag, 1998.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve - An Evolutionary Artificial Life Environment.« In Artificial Life, edited by Christopher G. Langton and Katsunori Shimohara, 167-175. Boston: MIT Press, 1997.
Grau, Oliver. »In das "lebendige" Bild: Die Virtuelle Realität setzt der Kunst neue Spielregeln.« neue bildende kunst. Zeitschrift für Kunst und Kritik , no. 6 (1997): 28-36.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »Interacting with Artificial Life: A-Volve.« Complexity Journal 2, no. 6 (1997): 13-21.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« In ARCO’96: Feria International de Arte Contemporáneo, edited by C. Goodman. Madrid, ES: ARCO / IFEMA - Feria de Madrid, International Contemporary Art Fair, 1996.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« In InfoArt, CD-ROM, edited by C. Goodman. Los Angeles: Rutt Video Interactive, 1996.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve – Evolucion Artificial.« In En entorno interactivo en tiempo real, catalog for ARCO 1996, edited by Leyla Ishi-Kawa and Lome Falk and Machiko Kusahara. Madrid, ES: ARCO, 1996.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« In Water, edited by Kaoru Amano. Tokyo, Japan: 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« In The Interactive Media Festival ’95, edited by Tim Druckrey and L. Goldman. Los Angeles: 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« edited by K. Hong-hee and C. Goodman. Kwangju, South Korea: 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve.« In WRO 95: Media Art Festival, edited by P. Krajewski. Wroclaw: 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve: An Artificial Life Environment.« In CNIASE´95, conference proceedings. Guyana, Venezuela, edited by . Guyana: CNIASE, 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »Interactive Plant Growing and A-Volve.« In The Interaction ´95, edited by Itsuo Sakane. Gifu: IAMAS Academy and Softopia, 1995.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »Interactive Plant Growing and A-Volve.« In Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, edited by M. Kusahara. Tokyo, Japan: ICC InterCommunication Center, NTT, 1994.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau. »A-Volve: A Real-time Interactive Environment.« In Siggraph´94 Visual Proceedings, edited by Siggraph, 172-173. New York: ACM, 1994.
Sommerer, Christa and Laurent Mignonneau and M. Kushara. »A-Volve: How much do you love the creature you create.« ICC InterCommunication Journal , no. 10 (October 1994).
Kusahara, Machiko. »"A-Volve" at ICC Gallery, Tokyo.« Asahi Shinbun (December 11th 1994).
Exhibitions & Events
Exhibition :