crash and bloom is an electronic sculpture that exhibits emergent
behavior similar to the "crash and bloom" cycles experienced by many
biological systems. The sculpture is a
set of forty-two small plastic boxes that are connected to one another
via short cables. The behavior of each box is very simple: if the box
receives a "ping" on its input, it turns on an internal light and plays a
short tone. The box then passes the ping on to whichever boxes are
connected to its output. However, if a box receives a second ping before
it is finished responding to the first one, it will "die" and will not
pass either ping along. Each time a box receives a ping, the length of
its response gets a bit shorter, until it gets so short that it resets
and becomes long again.
Using special splitter and joiner boxes, it is possible to create complex
connection topologies (or networks) between the boxes, including grids,
feedback loops, spoke and hub configurations, etc. These topologies,
coupled with the simple rules described above, give rise to
different sorts of group behaviors as pings move through the system,
flickering and buzzing, propagating and dying.
The current topology is a series of feedback loops. Configuring the
network of boxes in this way leads to "crash and bloom" cycles,
similar to those found in many biological systems. For instance, insect
populations or algae blooms often follow a familiar pattern: they expand
rapidly in a given environment, quickly using up all available resources.
Once the resources are exhausted, the large populations can no longer be
sustained, so they crash. This crash enables the environment to recover,
at which point the cycle begins again. Given enough time, similar cycles
can be observed in the crash and bloom boxes. Usually at least one
ping survives when the system crashes, allowing a new cycle to begin.
Occasionally however, the system experiences a "ping extinction," at
which point a new ping has to be injected into the network to start the
I am very interested in creating and exploring physical (i.e.
non-simulated) systems that display properties and behaviors that we're
more accustomed to dealing with as abstract concepts or computer models.
crash and bloom is one such system, and like many systems built
out of simple parts, the complex behavior it exhibits is unpredictable,
ever-changing, and hopefully, compelling.
crash and bloom has been shown at Gale-Martin Fine Art in Chelsea
as part of the From Scratch show, and at Eyedrum Gallery in Atlanta as
part of L'Objet Sonore.
I wrote an article on crash and bloom for the David Tudor issue
of Leonardo Music Journal:
"crash and bloom: A Self-Defeating Regenerative System". Please email me
for a copy of the article.
(Special thanks to Kyle Lapidus for his help in
assembling many of the crash and bloom boxes.)
(7.5MB QuickTime video)