Rosemary Holliday Hall
Rosemary Holliday Hall combines material and sonic exploration as she sifts through neglected patterns in the natural world. Her projects find aesthetic pleasure in hidden order and chance operations, seeking them out on multiple scales at once. Her collaboration with scientist Pregrad Popovic, Stigmergy, is no exception. By letting living termites collectively devour a copy of the book The Universe, Hall playfully and poetically expresses the fundamental linkages of social patterns to cosmic ones; by having virtual termites algorithmically build “mounds of sound,” the traces of music emerge from the edges of apparent randomness. The insect, the human, the swarm—the emergence of myriad from the many.
Stigmergy (the termite algorithm)
2019, computer algorithmic model, sound
An algorithmic “termite” picks up bits of sound and places them to create a “mound” that is later de-coded into a melody (a). The termite has several tunes at his or her disposal, each of which is split into a number of segments. The termite can choose any segment of any tune. In our project, we allowed the termite to use either tunes that were real recordings or simply pure frequencies. Once it makes its choice, the termite places the chosen segment somewhere on the mound. To model the stigmergy of natural termite mound-building, our algorithmic termite leaves a “trail,” slightly increasing the probability to pick a similar bit of sound and place it at a similar location on the mound the next time he or she makes a choice. — RHH and PP
Artist Reflection —
The patterns of bird flocking, microbial growth, and insect colonies have captured the human imagination for centuries. These patterns demonstrate swarm intelligence, a process where an emergent order arises from seemingly random biological activity, and where apparently dissimilar systems can show very similar behaviour. I collaborated with physicist Predrag Popovic to explore the oldest eusocial insect, the termite, and stigmergy (a key concept in the field of swarm intelligence). The termites ate a book from the Life Nature Series, titled The Universe. Cellulose pages and maps of the cosmos were submitted to termite editing. In time, the termites consumed and created their own architecture out of The Universe. Through wandering in a termite’s wandering, this collaboration searched for hybrid, in between, and experimental translations that invite a broader spectrum of interpretation. Our flesh, our limbs, our movements are inscribed with a multispecies history. The pattern which connects may be best articulated through the poetry of interspecies relations, movements, and behavior.
About Rosemary Holliday Hall
Rosemary Holliday Hall is a transdisciplinary artist and educator. Hall’s evolving projects, exhibitions, and publications explore cultural ecologies, conceptions of nature, and more-than-human agencies. Her work has been exhibited in Chicago, Los Angeles, London, and recently in DC for Sound Scene Fest: Emerge. She is a Co-Founder of Viral Ecologies, a digital publication that focuses on human and more-than-human ecological entanglements. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BFA with a minor in Environmental Horticulture from University of California, Davis. She is currently based in California.