The eighth annual Lumen Prize, celebrating the very best in international digital art, took place at the Barbican Centre for Performing Arts in London on 24 October. Presenting the BCS AI Award to winners, Dave Murray-Rust and Rocio von Jungenfeld, for “Lichtsuchende“ was Computer Arts Society chair, Dr Nick Lambert.

Nick Lambert said: ‘This year's Lumen Prize for Art and Technology was presented before a packed audience at the Barbican's Cinema Two. The BCS has been generously supporting the Lumen Prize for three years by funding the AI Prize category. Lumen attracts a wide range of international entrants and the AI prize this year was won by Dr Dave Murray-Rust, Senior Lecturer in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Rocio von Jungenfeld, Lecturer in Creative Media at the University of Kent. The artwork is underpinned by research into the algorithmically-mediated society and the permeation of data into physical spaces.’

The winning installation artwork is an interactive collection of robotic creatures who turn to follow the light, as well as exchanging their own light as a source of energy and communication to their peers. Based on the photokinetic movement of flowers, turning their faces to photosynthesise the sun’s life-giving rays each cybernetic creature works independently to follow light, torch beams, phone screens... and yet they also work together to offer a dynamic floor show of collaboration and ad hoc group choreography.

Visitors are invited into the closed darkened environment to play among the flowers. Using movement and light, viewers can become part of the interactive artwork, bringing life and light while directing the interactions of the robotic flowers.

The inspiration for Lichtsuchende, meaning light-seeking in German, is explained by artist and co-winner, Rocio Von Jungenfeld: ‘The structure and behaviour of the Lichtsuchende was inspired by sunflowers, turning their heads towards the sun and seeking light. As the project progressed and we installed the Lichtsuchende in different locations, we had to repair and looked after them. It has been a joy bringing these robotic creatures to life and getting to know them as they developed a sort of character / personality. Although, in theory they are all the same (same components / software), they were assembled by hand and so they were not identical and turned out to develop different physical conditions that affected their behaviour. We got to know some of them by their quirks and faults and would recognise them as: the twitchy one, the jerky one, the sleepy one, etc. 

‘We were thrilled to receive the award at the Lumen Prize ceremony last month. The award means a lot to us; it is fabulous to get recognition after a few years of working on and presenting the project in different venues (e.g. ZKM-Karlsruhe, Edinburgh International Science Festival). The Lichtsuchende (a society of light-seeking robots) have grown with us and on us over the past years, and they now have a life on their own.’

The artists are now in talks with the Lumen Prize team and the Computer Arts Society to find a permanent installation space for Lichtsuchende in London, while also considering other international venues and opportunities to showcase the award winning artwork.

Photo reproduced by kind permission of Chris Scott @chrisdonia

Sponsors

Lichtsuchende was sponsored by the University of Edinburgh Development Trust (Innovation Initiative Fund), New Media Scotland (Alt-w), Design-Informatics (University of Edinburgh), School of Engineering and Digital Arts (University of Kent) and SOCIAM (EPSRC).