Proliferation (2019)

Proliferation is an interactive installation that transforms the visitor into an avatar in a growing and sometimes faltering 3D simulation of an ecological competition between two species that occupy the same space. The simulation is based on mathematical models that investigate different growth scenarios with extremes between extinction and coexistence. Because the participant will become part of this accelerated evolution process, a purely mathematical model acquires a human charge that makes room for new questions.

The research of Dr. Daniël Valesin is the starting point of the installation. The evolution of the entities is subject to randomness and follows very simple mechanisms. Each individual has a random life duration, and at random moments during its lifetime, it can attempt to send a copy of itself to a neighbouring position (“reproduce”). Reproduction attempts are only successful if the chosen position for the new birth is empty. In mathematics, this model is a variant of the contact process, a model studied in the field of interacting particle systems (a sub-field of probability theory). Research on this kind of model focuses on questions such as: Under which conditions is one of the types likely to take over most of the space? How long does it take for space to become completely empty? What is the typical shape of the interface between regions occupied by each of the types?

The pictures above show the original visualisation (left) by Dr. Valesin and the visualisation of the installation Proliferation (right).

Proliferation is a collaboration between media artists Adri Schokker and Tom Dijkstra, mathematician in probability theory Prof. Dr. Daniël Valesin of the RUG and Robert Mertens, Tony Fial and Christiaan Bouwman of game development studio Sfinx Games. Special thanks to the organisation of the Night of Arts and Science, Science LinX of the University of Groningen and Maaike de Heij and Nathalie Schram for all their help and suggestions during the realisation of this project.