Becoming (2013 DOWNIE)

Becoming is a live artificially intelligent installation in which an abstract body tries to master all the movements present in an iconic 1980s science-fiction film.

Each of the film’s 1240 shots was subjected to a battery of computer vision techniques to extract their geometry, color, and movement. The abstract agent then enacts an heuristic search through the space of all the configurations and muscle activations of its own peculiar body to match the movement of each shot. It works out its approximations through a series of iterations, stopping only when satisfied that it has come as close as it can. The instructions it issues to itself are made visible in captions; these are commands such as “Increase trail,” “Into emptiest space, move to side,” and “Torque (long) and parachute.”

Becoming is displayed in portrait mode on a 6 foot 3D screen, so that the virtual body has the height of a human body.

Becoming was created by Marc Downie in collaboration with Nick Rothwell. Commissioned by the Wellcome Collection in London, the artwork was part of the Thinking with the Body exhibition there, where it ran live from September 15 through October 27 2013.

The virtual agent of Becoming was used by British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s in his London studio as an “eleventh dancer” whose role was to instigate new ideas for McGregor and his Random Dance company as they created a new work.