The audiovisual installation Agents was developed by Ludger Brümmer and Yasha Jain at the ZKM | Hertz-Lab in 2021. If the visitor steps onto the projection area, the installation reacts to all actions inside the space and with it. Different abstract creatures encompass the visitors above the floor. Other simple forms in various colors appear and vanish accompanied by comforting sounds. The interaction with the visitor shapes the specific configuration, movements and behavior of the projected figures and forms.
For the technical setup, the artists used several Kinect devices – the name is derived from the words kinetic and connect – hanging from the ceiling. The Kinect cameras and depth sensors detect persons at specific angles and can track their movement. This tracking information is sent to the Unity soft- ware, creating the visualizations to be projected onto the floor as well as the sound. The conceptual aim was to establish self-contained complex behavio- ral systems arising out of much simpler patterns. Although the creatures remind us of natural phenomena, they are not supposed to mimic these but create an abstraction of them. The technical setup allows multiple visitors to interact with the installation simultaneously.
The title of the installation refers to the capability of an agent to decide its actions. Yasha Jain explains: “Every agent in this space continuously makes its own algorithmic decisions, albeit contained within a set of behav- iors that we have defined for it.” 1 The definition drawn from artificial intelli- gence research describes the agents as independently acting units applying specific rules. Alone, these rules are simple, but the complexity arises from the interaction of moving people in space. Visitors entering the room also turn into agents themselves, influencing with their actions the formation of the installation. The exhibition section Interaction with New Companions deals with artificial life research and probes new approaches to defining life. What do we interpret as living, and what defines life-like behavior? Agents offers a perspective on multiple ways of relating to these questions. In this specific case, some agents act alone, some in swarms, others follow the visitors around or vanish in a burst of color when stepped on.
Depending on the visitors’ positions, the creatures express themselves with individual sounds that wander through the room. Eight loudspeakers placed throughout the space generate the sound, which is created using the software Zirkonium. The ZKM | Hertz-Lab has studied sound spatialization with this software for several years. Concerts by different artists regularly take place in the ZKM_Sound Dome, a specific studio and concert hall equipped with a surround sound system, using Zirkonium. The software controls the precise movements and distribution of the sounds, creating a 3D soundscape, an immersive acoustic experience. In Agents, the sound also responds to the visitors, changing its quality in real time as it follows their movements. As the larger virtual creatures and the visitors are assigned to individual sounds, both become agents co-creating the overall experience.

Die audiovisuelle Installation »Agents« zeigt eine Vielzahl verschiedener digitaler Kreaturen. Diese Kreaturen werden von mehreren Algorithmen gesteuert, die ihre eigenen Daten über Kinect-Kameras und Mikrofone aufzeichnen – fast wie die Augen und Ohren organischer Lebewesen. Diese Daten werden verwendet, um die Position von Besuchern zu bestimmen, die den Lebensraum betreten. Nähert sich ein Besucher einem Lebewesen, reagiert es mit einem von mehreren einfachen Verhaltensweisen: Es kann wachsen, sich zurückziehen oder weitere kleine Lebewesen erzeugen. Die ständigen Interaktionen zwischen den einzelnen Tieren und mit Besuchern lassen diese einfachen Verhaltensweisen äußerst komplex erscheinen. Die Kreaturen geben auch einzigartige Töne von sich, die sich dank eines 8-Kanal-Lautsprechersystems je nach Aufenthaltsort der Besucher im Raum bewegen.

Interactive installation, depth cameras, speakers, micro- phone, computer, software: Unity, Zirkonium
Videotracking: Bernd Lintermann
Stereophony control software Zirkonium: Dan Wilcox

Production: ZKM | Hertz-Lab

Video documentary:
© ZKM | Video Studio, 2022
Camera: Xenia Leidig, Peter Müller, Christina Zartmann
Editing: Lisa Michel, Christina Zartmann

Weitere Informationen:

Abonniere unseren Newsletter