Life Writer

2006 / Installation
Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau


Life Writer is an old-fashioned typewriter that was transformed into a computer interface, where users can interact using the normal functions of the machine. It stands on an old table with a projection from above oriented directly onto the paper. This creates the impression of the paper becoming the computer screen, since the movement of the typewriter's paper tray is seamlessly linked with the movement of the projected image. When a user writes text on this typewriter, the text transforms into artificial life forms that appear on the paper of the typewriter as if directly emerging from the machine. These spider-like creatures run around frenetically trying to find text to eat. When the user types some more letters, the creatures will quickly snap it up, and once they have eaten enough text, they will reproduce and fill the whole surface of the paper. The user can also kill the creatures by pushing them off the paper or squeezing them back into the machine. The creatures are programmed with genetic algorithms, so they are semi-autonomous and follow their own internal rules of metabolization and reproduction. The whole process of writing text on Life Writer becomes a process of giving life to thoughts and having thoughts themselves evolve, escape and reconfigure.
Life Writer is an extraordinary project, not only in the application of new technologies to sculptural form and in combining old and new technology through a media archaeological interface; it is also an example of an art form in which interactive art begins to evolve towards a "living art" in itself. The creation and manipulation of fascinating visual images in an interactive environment where participants also engage in the act of creation raises fundamental questions about human interaction with increasingly "intelligent" machines and possible levels of human-machine symbiosis.

Photo: Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau

Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Life Writer, 2008, typewriter, table, chair, projector, loaned by the artists