Axolotl

Interactive installation — displaying suspicious artificial creature

Axolotl was conceived and developed as an academic project at ITP program of NYU, in collaboration with Filippo Vanucci. The name ‘Axolotl’ was inspired by a short story by Julio Cortazar, about a man who develops a deep emotional obsession to passive creatures he observes in an aquarium. Axolotl is an interactive installation based on a life-like algorithmic animation of a creature, responding to the presence of observers. The project is an exploration of the possibilities to portray life, through motion and form, and is aiming at getting people to reflect on the way that we perceive life, and look at what kind of emotional response can be evoked to the perception of a life-form, knowing that it is artificial. The creature of Axolotl is projected on an aquarium, an object that is associated with looking at animals, be it fish or other animals and serves the purpose of the piece.

The choice to design an under water creature allowed for more freedom of motion in all dimensions and the ability to come-up with an abstract shape that can still be perceived as a living being.
The whole process for the animation and interaction of Axolotl was done using theProcessing environment. This was a a major change from creating linear animations using commercial software. Using code allows to create ever changing and responsive animation, running in real time. I could also achieve motion that is to complex to create using keyframes. The animation code was implemented using calculations of physical forces like gravity and inertia. That allowed for the creature to move in an organic smooth motion, and also had the tentacles respond to spatial motion in 3 dimension.

Publications: Axolotl was featured on ‘Make’ magazine.  Presented at the ITP show, spring ’09, and at Media Lounge Festival on summer ’09.

More details can be found on the project page Axolotl

Make magazine article