Evolutionary Forest, 2021 – ongoing

Generative Installation

Video Caption
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 approximations of complex ecological processes. As an art installation, Evolutionary Forest is projected onto a wall as a dynamic painting, with gentle but evocative imagery that fosters meditative reflections on ecological cycles. 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 various 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 climate extremes, a new ecosystem recovers, although with much less diversity and vitality. Whenever a tree species is eliminated from the landscape, a new species evolves which may be better suited for the simulated climate. 

Evolutionary Forest is created with cellular automata-based systems that continually change within the graphics card of a computer. This unique way of computation mirrors the nature of complex adaptive systems, which have emergent behaviour that result from relationships between component parts. 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 A-life system was created with intuitive coding processes that are foundational to the artwork itself.    Evolutionary Forest presents a virtual space of infinite potential while depicting ecological processes that drive biological collapse, adaptation and resilience in nature.

Screenshot of Evolutionary Forest