The contemporary moment is defined by the appearance of artificial systems that mimic intelligent behaviours with uncanny skill: bots that you can converse with, machines that can act as pets, and even the algorithms that recommend ads to you. At times they appear as strange beings; alive. To make sense of this phenomenon, we are forced to reconsider our notion of the living state beyond what we are familiar with on Earth.
Calian is an infinitely zoomable and scrollable exploration of lifelike behaviour. It exhibits ambiguous natural-digital forms in a dynamic rendering. Species grow and compete; they get carried by the elements; they face boom, bust, and echo.
What makes something alive? To go beyond recognition of terrestrial biology we need to delineate general principles and apply them to new intelligent systems. Calian uses the fruits of my research into the origin of life to create persistent, complex systems that we can experience and study (*). We can identify properties of living matter but these fall short of a satisfactory and succinct criterion. When does agency begin? Or identity? Calian asks you to ponder this as you wander through its ecosystems.
Feel free to explore but be careful: although life is pervasive, living things are delicate. Your interactions affect the ecosystem, obliquely.
Calian continues a thread of my work probing deep scientific questions with artistic means. It furthermore connects to my previous Artblocks projects Mazinaw and Glass through the theme of ambiguity: while Mazinaw suggested the hand of an unknown creator, and Glass visualized the intrinsic ambiguity of our quantum mechanical universe, Calian's amorphous forms bear characteristics both of familiar organic matter and digital technology.
Interactive features allow you to explore each ecosystem, infinitely, both in depth and in scope. As you wander, the shader repopulates the world from its initial condition, while the physical laws governing the dynamics themselves evolve.
See Display Notes for Controls.
(*) For more on Calian's dynamics and its grounding in my research, see the Calian page on my website.
Learn more at https://eeedg.ca/Calian-1
Eric De Giuli
Eric De Giuli (alias EDG) is a theoretical physicist and generative artist. His professional work centres on the emergence of complexity in the universe; current research projects focus on the origin of life and the emergence of language. He has published dozens of articles in the leading physics journals, and is the recipient of numerous awards. His generative art practice has developed in parallel with his professional interests. Early work (Generative Landscapes, 2002-2006) explored the complexity of geological forms. Recent work takes cues from scientific questions and asks how alternate worlds might differ from our own (Alien Tongues; Alien Codex; Spectral Beings. 2021). Most recently, he has tended towards abstraction (Stitched; Mazinaw. 2022), the interpretation of quantum mechanics (Glass, 2022), and the timeless question: what is life? (Calian, 2023).
Curated artist interview
Algorithmic edition of 256
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