January 2020

mutant garden website

a website by Harm van den Dorpel, 2020

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This artwork uses an algorithm called 'Cartesian genetic programming', as proposed by Julian F. Miller and Peter Thomson, approximately twenty years ago. It is called ‘Cartesian’ because it represents a program using a two-dimensional grid of nodes. By its nature, its genetic encoding contains many redundant genes, which are well known to assist in effective evolutionary development.

In Mutant Garden, clicking one rectangular 'mutant' will cause its siblings to be replaced with newly mutated offspring. This breeding strategy requires only one parent to be selected because the algorithm is the most effective when mutation, rather than cross-over, is applied.

As many people nowadays equate articifial intelligence with neural networks, the artist wants to highlight other moments in this recent history of computation, approaching it as algorithmic archeology. Each new innovation in this lineage aimed to improve or render its predecessor obsolete, yet would simultaneously stand on its shoulders.

In hindsight, this work can be regarded the fifth installment of the artist's chronological inquiry into the history of computation, preceded by Markov's Window (2004), Death Imitates Language (2015), Algues Artificielles (2017), and Nested Exchange (2018).