Inspiring the next generation of digital artists
A superorganism is a big organism made up of smaller organisms. Superorganism art is a big piece of art made up of smaller pieces of art. With readily available and easy to use digital tools, Superorganism art dramatically expresses the powers of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.
Where did the Superorganism Art idea come from?
Digital Art is particularly good at changing over time in unexpected ways. Combine enough of this together and the resulting chaos is thrilling to see and can develop a life of its own. We had been making digital art for years and started to think how we could get non-artists involved in the process. We designed a series of workshops where beginners could learn some creative coding and make small generative animations – unique to each person. The Processing language enables almost instantaneous production – in the space of an hour anyone can create a code-driven animation with a rich variety of output over time. In a superorganism project, each person’s code is brought into a larger container program which allows everyone’s code snippets to run at once in a shared space. We can then all sit back and see what happens.
The first time we tried this was during a residency at Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon. Over the course of a week we ran workshops and drop-ins with over 60 local residents including children and pensioners. We used four projectors to spread the results over the walls of the gallery and the resulting exhibition was open to the Brecon public for a month. We had added in some digital creatures (ANIMATS) and some artificial life forms (amongst them CORAL and TERMITES) to occupy the shared space and respond to the workshop animations. On the drive back home we realised we’d created a new kind of art work. The life-like activity of the piece was compelling and we quickly settled on the name Superorganism to describe this kind of large scale collaborative project.
Since then, we have created a Superorganism with the participation of over two hundred 15-17 year olds as part of the UK’s National Citizens Scheme which aims to give teenagers a range of skills to make them ‘unstoppable’ – like the way an ant colony conquers all before it, and an ant colony is a great example of a superorganism in nature. The workshops were run over 4 days in Canterbury, Kent and then we combined all the results together into a series of generative programs to be projected on a huge scale at a local art festival. The themes of EARTH, WATER, AIR and FIRE added to the richness and variety of this version.
Ideas of Infinite Fruitfulness
Superorganism is a great way to collaborate with people; learning creative coding and building a dynamic, lifelike and ever changing art work. The possibilities are endless.