Autoinducer_Ph-1 is a semi-synthetic ecosystem that explores the question of how the evolutionary adaptation of natural organisms to artificially-created living entities might happen, and vice versa. It consists of biological, electro-robotic and computing processes, thus staging a permanent interaction between an artificial bacteria, a techno-organism based on software and a robotic system, and three organic protagonists: rice, Azolla fern, and the cyanobacteria Anabaena. The installation takes traditional rice cultivation techniques from Asia, where the water fern Azolla is used as an organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer in rice paddies, as its starting point. Andy Gracie turns them into a complex networked laboratory mirroring contemporary agricultural techniques and the increasingly machinic nature of ecosystems.
Autoinducer_Ph-1 probes into and interferes with the symbiosis between the water fern Azolla and the cyanobacteria Anabaena, which helps grow the oval Oryza sativa rice field in the gallery. An information system with gas sensors captures data about the relationships between the organic protagonists of the installation, and sends them to an artificial, software-based bacteria that then interacts with them either symbiotically or parasitically. Through this interface, the synthetic bacteria is fully integrated into the ecosystem and exerts an equal influence on the system’s equilibrium as the real organisms. If the core of the system “understands” the relationship as symbiotic, it will instruct its robotic arms to begin to scoop out Azolla and deliver it to the rice. If the relationship is interpreted as being more parasitic, the arms will withhold the delivery. The robotic arms are also capable of evolving new expressive movements, based on the ecological data they receive – ballet-like movements which express the state of the system as a whole. Artist Andy Gracie expects that, if maintained for several generations, the natural proponents of this semi-synthetic ecosystem will evolutionarily adapt to the artificial bacteria.
Andy Gracie works across various disciplines including installation art, robotics, sound, video and biological practice. His works create situations of exchange between natural and artificial systems which allow new emergent behaviours to develop.