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Collimation – Two interlocked microscopes stimulate artificial neural growth

Created by Brad Todd, a Montreal-based artist and Design and Computation Arts instructor at Concordia University, Collimation (2015) is a system of two microscopes inspecting and recording one another as three projection screens visualize the interpretive analysis occurring within the computer vision software.

The ‘binocular’ system acts as a basic form of artificial intelligence, where the visual stimuli is translated into a performative act of seeing and the generated data being treated as a neuron. The data is first transposed in the centre image, combining the two microscope feeds, then extracted to the image on the left and “flowing” to the right as a “mirror neuron” where the image is influenced by the actions of the first, reacting and generating its own growth patterns and behaviour. In addition, the sound created by the installation is coupled with a composed score and fed back into the system where it acts upon the behaviour and responsiveness of the images.

The system’s behaviour is, in a mimetic sense, reflective of several kinds of processes which operate under acts of translation and analysis. The parsing of information, as it happens at the very foundation of cognition, is central to our understanding of the bodies, networks, and ecosystems in which we exist. In the installation, the visual instantiation of complex notions of being collide with features of surveillance and even further into cartographic renderings of both the microscopic, in the form of neuronal imagery, to the macro in terms of alluding to the mapping and visualization of connectivity (through data analytics) within socio-geo-politcal bodies.

Beyond the project’s conception and design, Brad Todd collaborated with Elie Zananiri (code and software development), Dix2 (fabrication and engineering), and Ian Ilavsky (audio together with Brad Todd).

Collimation uses openFrameworks, two microscopes, custom robotic armatures, a laptop, and three projectors.

Project Page | Brad Todd