Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau. The Artwork as a Living System
The title graphic of the exhibition
In cooperation with Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao
Wed, February 07, 2024 – Sun, May 26, 2024

The interactive installations in the exhibition tell the story of almost 30 years of artistic work by the Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. The retrospective, which was on show at the ZKM | Karlsruhe in 2022, is now visiting Bilbao.

The exhibition »The Artwork as a Living System« provides an overview of the work of the Austrian-French artist couple Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau since the early 1990s. Sommerer and Mignonneau move between the fields of science, technology and art as pioneers of the »Art of Interface«, in which innovative technical interfaces enable physical interaction between simulative visual worlds and the world of natural sensory organs. Very early on, they also used algorithms to depict not only the forms of living things, but also their evolution and growth. In fourteen installations, which are only created through the actions of the audience, man-made artificial systems are shown that behave like natural living organisms. Technical devices originally designed by the artist duo produce virtual realities and immersive environments beyond the horizon of previous experience. Their works, which have now almost become classics of digital art, open up a new horizon in which artworks act as living systems. Few artists have shaped the transition from the moving image media phase to animated image media like Sommerer and Mignonneau.

»Their works are technologically imaginative, scientifically instructive and artistically inventive. Visitors therefore leave their works enriched by aesthetic, ludic and cognitive experiences and insights. Sommerer and Mignonneau's exhibition is more than a cabinet of curiosities, more than a terrarium, more than an aquarium, it shows mythical creatures, artificial creatures, a previously unseen panorama of fantasy and technical ingenuity.« (Peter Weibel) 

Her media art works, which are based on scientific findings, open up the possibility of exploring the growth of plants or the behavior of tiny computer-generated creatures such as flies and beetles and their embedding in complex ecosystems. Works such as »Interactive Plant Growing« (1992), »A-Volve« (1994) or »Portrait on the Fly« (2015), which are in the collection of the ZKM | Karlsruhe, simulate living systems in which touching real plants or moving in front of a screen generates transformations in digital space. With the augmented reality installation »AR[t]chive« (2022), presented for the first time in the exhibition, the archive of Sommerer and Mignnonneau can be explored in AR.

Co-production partners