Artificial Roots

2021 Neural Cellular Automata Sculpture

Artificial Roots is a work made in the context of the DISPARES project, a multidisciplinary project to promote the collaboration between people with backgrounds in science/technology and art, funded by the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation and the University Carlos III of Madrid.

During this 1 year long project, I collaborated with David Estévez studying the artistic possibilities and applications of a novel artificial life techique called Neural Cellular Automata (NCA). Neural Cellular Automata is a extension of the classic cellular automata: a program that defines a grid of alive/dead cells and a set of simple rules that, once applied to each of the cells, gives rise to emergent behaviors more complex than the rules defined. Neural Cellular Automata use Deep Learning technniques to learn a more complex set of rules from images and patterns, resulting in more interesting and elaborate emergent behaviors.

The result of the research and experimentation is a wooden sculpture that shows patterns generated by NCA learned from images of natural elements and patterns. The piece is a reflection on the contradiction of developing technology increasingly advanced –to the point in which it begins to imitate life itself– while ignoring the signs our development leaves on nature. The Neural Celullar Automata «grows» pictures in the wooden frame, that try to become increasingly alive, while the wooden frame, once alive rebels against its new artificial natures and becomes a tree again.