Exploring 'Kinds of Life' in the Zayed Centre for Research

Kinds of Life is a moving sculpture by Random International that lives at the heart of the Zayed Centre for Research. It sporadically engages with visitors to the Centre, aiming to reflect the idea of curiosity leading to great discovery. We spoke to Random International artists Florian Ortkrass and Hannes Koch, who share their intentions behind designing this experimental piece.

Saying hello

Describing the concept behind Kinds of Life, Hannes begins: “It is the expression of our intention to install a form of new life in the Zayed Centre for Research. When designing it we felt it should be something that lives in the building, and when you return it’s like visiting someone or something.

The sculpture invites active participation by sporadically responding to its surrounding environment in real time. Kinds of Life is intended to explore how it might feel to share the world with artificial intelligence and what the fields of AI and evolutionary biology can learn from one another.

Describing some of the interactions visitors can expect, Hannes says: “It is exploring the space and movement of people so when they gather in certain areas it will respond and move to where they are. We think of it as a big aquarium, with something living inside and when you come over it checks you out. 

Flo adds: “There's a good chance it will live there [in the atrium] for most of the time and then occasionally come towards you.”

The heart of the building

“In our general perception, movement is one of the common, small denominators of expressing life; not the only one of course but there is a good chance that if something moves organically it is some form of life,” Says Hannes.

“Developing that came from these very fundamental ideas. We knew we wanted to install a life in the heart of the building and thought- how do we express that through movement? How do we keep a neutral typology through a geometric shape?

“We didn't want to do anything figurative. So we worked with the team in our studio on how to do that and then with wider team in implementing it.”

Responding to the brief of creating a sculpture in a healthcare setting was a unique opportunity for Hannes and Flo: “I think as far as public sculpture and art goes, it put us to a new kind of challenge. You still want to connect with families, but you don't want to make a play thing - it’s a sculpture still, but the breadth and depth of the audience is much more unique than in any other environment.”

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