After examining animated phenomena that are pervasive in such domains as user interfaces and digital entertainment, this chapter looks at the phenomenon of liveliness in the realm of art, which has long been a platform for humans to express, to interrogate, and to experiment. Contrasting with the previous types of digital artifacts in terms of creators’ intentions or consumers’ motivations, fine art practice still shares some features with them in animated phenomenal terms. Many works of art, such as mobile sculptures by Alexander Calder, mechanical automata by Jacques de Vaucanson, and others, revolve around the illusion of life, not to mention numerous arthouse animated movies. For an expanded illusion of life, works of digital art are particularly illustrative. By ‘digital art’ I mean the field of work whose discourse processes rely on the use of digital technology. This kind of work usually incorporates computer programs to produce variable and dynamic instances that show autonomous, reactive, transformative, and contingent behaviors. Hence, John Conway’s Game of Life (1970) as mentioned in Chapter 3 belongs to the category by definition. The tiny but distinctive program, as the name tells, simulates the mechanics of evolution on the cellular level and projects an image of life on a two-dimensional plane. The pixels in the grid turn on and off continuously and responsively in a seemingly autonomous fashion, resulting in a diverging pattern similar to the evolution of cells.
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