Portrait on the Fly


Portrait on the Fly (2015)

Interactive Computer Installation

In collaboration with Art, Cornell Tech, New York City

Portrait on the Fly (Interactive Version) by the artists Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer is composed of an interactive monitor that shows a swarm of ten thousand flies. When a person positions himself in front of it, the insects try to detect his facial features. They then begin to arrange themselves so as to reproduce them, thereby creating a recognizable likeness of the individual. Posing in front of the monitor attracts the flies. Within seconds they invade the face, but even the slightest movement of the head or of parts of the face drives them off. The portraits are thus in constant flux, they construct and deconstruct. Portrait on the Fly is a commentary on our love for making pictures of ourselves (Selfie-Culture), it has to do with change, transience and impermanence.

For 25 years, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau’s work has focused on the boundaries between art and science. Their early works featuring interactive arts are influenced by the modeling of artificial life, genetic algorithms, complex systems and research linked to the interaction between humans and machines.

Christa Sommerer (AT) and Laurent Mignonneau (FR) are internationally renowned media artists working in the field of interactive computer installation. They are Professors at the University of Art and Design in Linz Austria where they head the Department for Interface Culture at the Institute for Media. Sommerer and Mignonneau previously held positions as Professors at the IAMAS International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences in Gifu, Japan and as Researchers and Artistic Directors at the ATR Media Integration and Communications Research Lab in Kyoto Japan. They also were Visiting Researchers at the MIT CAVS in Cambridge US, the Beckmann Institute in Champaign Urbana, IL, USA and the NTT-InterCommunication Center in Tokyo.

Sommerer originally studied biology (botany) at the University of Vienna and modern sculpture and art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (masters degree) .

Mignonneau studied modern Art and Video Art at the “Ecole des Beaux Arts” in Angouleme, France – where he received his masters degree.

Sommerer and Mignonneau completed their PhD degrees from CAiiA-STAR, University of Wales College of Art, Newport, UK and the University of Kobe Japan, respectively.

In 1992 Sommerer and Mignonneau met at the Institute for New Media at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt where they teamed up and started their collaboration in the area of interactive computer installations. Mignonneau and Sommerer’s artworks have been called “epoch making” (Toshiharu Itoh, NTT-ICC museum) for developing natural and intuitive interfaces and for often applying scientific principles such as artificial life, complexity and generative systems to their innovative interface designs. Mignonneau and Sommerer created pioneering interactive computer installations such as “Interactive Plant Growing” (1992), “Anthroposcope” (1993), “A-Volve” (1994), “Trans Plant” (1995), “Intro Act” (1995), “MIC Exploration Space” (1995), “GENMA” (1996), “Life Spacies” (1997), “Life Spacies II” (1999), “HAZE Express” (1999), “VERBARIUM” (1999), “Industrial Evolution” (2000) and “PICO_SCAN” (1999/2000) and “Riding the Net” (2000),  “The Living Room” (2001), “The Living Web” (2002), “Nano-Scape” (2002), “Mobile Feelings” (2003) and “Eau de Jardin” (2004).

These works have been shown in around 250 exhibitions world-wide and are permanently installed in media museums and media collections around the world, including the Media Museum of the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, the NTT-ICC InterCommunication Center in Tokyo, the Cartier Foundation in Paris, the Millennium Dome in London, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan, the AEC Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria, the NTT Plan-Net in Nagoya, Japan, Shiroishi Multimedia Art Center in Shiroishi, Japan and the HOUSE-OF-SHISEIDO in Tokyo.

Sommerer and Mignonneau have won mayor international media awards, for example the “Golden Nica” Ars Electronica Award for Interactive Art 1994 (Linz, Austria), the “Ovation Award” of the Interactive Media Festival 1995 (Los Angeles, USA),  the “Multi Media Award ’95” of the Multimedia Association Japan and the” World Technology Award” in London (2001).

Sommerer and Mignonneau have published numerous research papers on Artificial Life, interactivity and interface design and they lectured extensively at universities, international conferences, and symposia.

Sommerer has organized workshops and invited sessions at various international conferences, such as Dagstuhl Seminar (Germany, 2003), SCI2001 (Orlando, 2001), KES2001(Osaka, 2001), AlifeVII (Portland, 2000), KES2000 (Brighton, 2000) and ART-Science-ATR (Kyoto, 1997). Sommerer has also organized several student exhibitions (Ogaki Biennale, 2003 and the IAMAS Campus Exhibition at Ars Electronica 2004 in Linz) and she serves on many conference committees (Siggraph 2005, ACM 2004, NIME 2004, ICAT 2004 etc.) and is also an active jury member at various international competitions  (IP Impulse Program 2005 of the Austrian Business Association,  Ars Electronica Jury 2005, UNESCO Digtital Arts Program, VIPER 2002 etc.

Sommerer is an International Co-editor for the LEONARDO Journal, MIT Press and in 1998, together with Laurent Mignonneau, she edited a book on the collaboration of art and science called “Art@Science,” published by Springer Verlag Vienna/New York (ISBN 3-211-82953-9).

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