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WEB 1080px 72dpi FACT You Feel Me October 2019 Credit Rob Battersby 16

The Observer (1999-2019)

The Observer (1999-2019), Rebecca Allen, HD video with sound (approx. duration 60 minutes).

Every day, we follow the rules set by systems of power - in education, law, politics and technology - and they influence our environment, behaviour, and decision-making. Rebecca Allen’s work questions these systems by creating a virtual world where new rules of behaviour can emerge.

The Observer is a moving painting built using Emergence: a computer system that Allen developed in the late 1990’s, able to generate artificial life - an AI system that simulates life-like behaviours of animated artificial lifeforms. Immersed in a virtual world we’re taken on a journey through rich and vibrant digital landscapes, observing strange new lifeforms as we go. The artificial life system allows Allen to create rules to inform these creatures’ behaviours - their personalities, attitudes and actions - and watch as the creatures interact with the environment and each other, making their own decisions based on her rules.

From the late 1970’s, Allen was a rare female artist working in the early stages of computer design and digital technology. Her artworks are often built using the same technology as many video games, but Allen was clear that she wanted to make something different from the often violent and destructive content we see in the industry. The Observer creates an alternative world that focuses on subtle behaviours and interactions - rather than base actions stemming from conflict and anger - so we as observers can see new ways of being, whilst immersed in a utopic digital landscape.

Commissioned by FACT. Courtesy of the artist.

Artists