REPLICA PRAESENS (2016) is a performance-lecture about an animation and synthetic life simulation programmed in Processing/Java over the course of January through May of 2016. This silicon ecosystem contains various nutrients, plant species, and creature species which grow and evolve together with the ability to display various emergent behaviors and properties. Biological processes are given abstract representations (e.g. sexual reproduction + genetic algorithms, metabolic rates, defecation etc.), as are various neural processes (autonomous decision making based on limited knowledge of self and environment) and emotional processes (happiness, sadness, sexual drive, social drive, etc.). The lecture also includes a visual presentation of a complete neural network simulation of a C. elegans nematode's connectome.
The performance drew much of its inspiration from Stefan Hemlreich's anthropological work conducted while embedded in the artificial life, simulation theory, and non-linear dynamic systems research groups at the Santa Fe Institute, as well as N. Katherine Hayles' writing on cybernetics. By taking the audience on a guided tour of the system's technical implementation, the performance aimed to explore the ontological status of the simulated organisms - cybernetic life-computers, abstract data structures, textual code, digital objects in memory, or patterns of electrical signals deep in the bowels of processing units? It also investigated the relationship between their embedded (or abstract) existence and their visually mediated representation to the audience.
The lecture was given at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts on April 29th, 2016, and at the UCLA Design and Media Arts program on May 26th, 2016.