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The King's Artists at the Royal Academy

The courtyard at the Royal Academy of Arts in London provides the perfect setting for this fine bronze King Robbo sculpture by Team Robbo, which is their contribution to The King's Artists exhibition that is due to open at the RA at the end of this month. The piece has been supported by Prank Sky Media and is on loan from the company for the duration of the exhibition - they are likely to go down in the history books as one of the RA's great patrons, maintaining the long standing historical connection between the monarchy and the Royal Academy from its foundation in 1768 to the present day.

 

The technology that Team Robbo have used to create the text based metal forms simulates natural selection using a 'survival of the fittest' rule. The difference is that, instead of plants and animals competing, different versions of artistic software are battling for their place in the next generation. A Darwinian process is set up so that the better forms will have lots of copies (versions similar or identical) in the next generation and the less desirable shapes are eliminated. What makes some forms 'better' than others is determined by the artists or writers setting up the experiment (e.g., the ability to get out of mazes, drive a car without crashing, control a legged robot, etc). Over time the software gets better and better since mutations (random changes in the programs) and 'sex' (combining a portion of the code of one form with a portion of another) will occasionally produce a form that is a slight improvement over its parents. This slightly better software will thrive for a while until it too is replaced by the next slightly better software. Given enough generations, these small changes can add up to produce rats, monkeys, politicians and poets. Natural selection, plus a lot of time, produced all of the "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful" on this planet, to quote Darwin. In a computer world, because generations can happen in microseconds, we don't need millions of Earth years to pass before interesting things begin to happen. Evolutionary computation has frequently come up with better designs than any artist.

 

With thanks to our photographers Herry Lawford and Stinging Eyes.

 

Dave, Prank Sky Media, Hackney, London

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Taken on May 2, 2012