Earlier in the planet’s history, electro-vivescent life forms flourished. This rare footage tracks a colony of tendril-like electro-organisms and their symbiotic companions through the seasonal cycle of a planetary year, as they metamorphose through their various stages.
produced by: Laura Dekker
“Eddies and whirligigs are fascinating things. The eddy appears to be a prototypical model of spatial enclosure. In wrapping around on itself it creates a shelters and protective environment, a special withinness that is different from the withoutness of the moving stream.”
Peter S Stevens
Earlier in the planet’s history, when the core and atmosphere were in great turmoil, electro-vivescent life forms flourished. Why they became extinct is not fully understood. This rare footage tracks a colony of tendril-like electro-organisms and their symbiotic companions through the seasonal cycle of a planetary year, as they metamorphose through their various stages.
The starting point for this project is the spiral form, which exists in the natural world (biological and non-biological) in a multiplicity of locations, materials and scale, from the double helix of DNA, to a spiral galaxy, and many things in between: water eddies, twining plant stems and tendrils, mollusc shells, cyclones, tornadoes, ram’s horns... Each spiral has its characteristic direction of turning: the hop turns oppositely to the grape vine. Each electron with a positive spin is pared with an electron of negative spin. Chirality is everywhere, in the metabolic potential of L-glucose, against its R-glucose mirror twin. Sinister or dextrous now mean more than their original prosaic handedness.
With the spiral form, which seems to contain within it so much possibility and life force, I wanted to extract as much expression as possible, to create a narrative of an independent organism of ambiguous position, somewhere between biological, and a temporary holding of matter, pulsing through with electricity. Whether or not the electricity is generated by them, or they are somehow feeding off it, is not clear. There is an alternative physics and alternative biology at work here.
I decided to keep to clean graphics, with a limited colour set and transparencies, to bring out the behaviour of the tendrils and the overall implied narrative. The challenge was not to use any three-dimensional primitives, so I generate the tendrils and electrical pulses by using layers of sine wave paths, to create a sense of depth, visibility, hiddenness and spatial enclosure. Perlin noise provides “organic” variation in the spiral growth, and determines the springiness in the tendrils, vertically and laterally, as they interact with the world. The background is kept very simple, with just a hint of seasonal change, and pulsating “cold stars”, which in their blackness absorb, rather than emit, light.
The “yearly” cycle of three minutes runs through four seasons, approximately reflecting the seasons in Earth’s temperate regions. Locations, dimensions, growth, colours and timings have random elements to them, so that each loop through the year differs from the previous one.
In programming this, some surprising things emerged - some things I expected to be complex to create, such as the electrical pulses, actually turned out to produce quite satisfying behaviour with very few lines of code. And conversely, some of the less exciting features, such as controlling the exact timing of the whole piece, proved stubbornly awkward. The fun for me was in creating, from limited graphic elements, the narrative of a possibly sentient life form, with its own private life, into which we are allowed a brief glimpse.
Peter S Stevens, Patterns in Nature. London: Penguin Books, 1974.