Evolutionary Forest, 2022

Generative Simulation

Screen recording of Evolutionary Forest
Project Description

Evolutionary Forest is a generative artwork that produces a virtual ecosystem which responds to changing landscape conditions. This simulated environment continually evolves through interrelated approximations of complex ecological processes. As an installation, Evolutionary Forest is projected onto a wall as a dynamic painting, with gentle but evocative imagery that fosters meditative reflections for ecological understanding. Abstract timescales depict overlapping adaptive cycles inherent to forest ecosystems, evoking a sense of organic life with vast potential in virtual space. Evolutionary Forest was created as a cross-disciplinary exploration of agency, adaptation and resilience in the context of climate change.

Through cyclical iterations, Evolutionary Forest generates diverse landscapes with unique assemblages of tree species. With genetic variables that affect behaviour and characteristics, different tree species compete and grow in response to changing landscape conditions. Localized disturbance events kill trees when they are overcrowded and homogenized, balancing the ecosystem and ultimately enhancing diversity over time. However, as climatic conditions change for each environment, disturbance events are magnified, resulting in large-scale disruptions that dramatically transform the simulated ecosystem. Depending on genetic adaptations for climatic extremes, a new ecosystem recovers with impoverished diversity. Whenever a tree species is eliminated from the landscape, a new species evolves which may be better suited for the simulated climate. 

Installation of Evolutionary Forest


Evolutionary Forest is created with cellular automata-based systems that continually change within the graphics card of a computer. This alternative process of computation mirrors the nature of complex adaptive systems, which have emergent behaviour that result from relationships between interconnected entities. Evolutionary Forest operates through a simulation of various adaptive cycles that approximate growth, release and reorganization in various spatial and temporal scales. Inspired by observation and ecological concepts of systems theory, this dynamic artwork was created with an intuitive coding process that is foundational to the artwork itself. Modified computer hardware is exposed to make the limitations and processes of this real-time simulation more transparent. Evolutionary Forest presents a virtual space of infinite potential while depicting ecological processes that drive biological collapse, adaptation and resilience in nature.

Modified Computer hardware for Evolutionary Forest