seasickness and coral babies

In the fall of 2021, Maya and me got invited to the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Parc Chanot in Marseille to learn more about plant and animal life, but moreso how to approach the theme of biodiversity in our respective art practices.

Since we both have this tendency to easily get distracted and wander off, we spent a lot of time loosing each other and running around to find ourselves again. At some point I was having my own adventure observing 50 different types of sand through a kid's microscope, when I suddenly caught a nauseous Maya. She comes up to me with the look in her eyes, the "i've had enough internet for today look" and she tells me about how she just learnt about how corals reproduce. How they basically puke their children into the ocean, which then wander off to build new colonies. I have to admit that some of the video footage shown at the congress really looked like a child had been sick in shallow water, but nevertheless it got me thinking about how inanimate things move underwater.

I wanted to see if I could get some kind of organic coral-like structure using an algorithm similar to Diffusion-Limited Aggregation, but instead of using Brownian Motion, I wanted to see what could be done if we simulated movements more similar to sea currents.

The DLA algorithm is rather simple, I've already blogged about it in detail here if you're interested, but here's the short version : You start the simulation with a large amount of moving particles, called walkers. And secondly, one or more fixed particles, which together form what we call the aggregation. Each time a walker touches the aggregation, it stops moving and becomes part of the aggregation.

For the sea currents, I created an evolutive flowfield (a grid of vectors) guiding the particle's directions. In consequence, the aggregation becomes more important depending on how it faces the current. Aggregating more when particles are pushed towards it, and less when they are being pushed away. This gives our structure an organic looking shape, but also endows it with a sense of history. As the currents change directions in time, our coral also aggregate differently, thus becoming a archive record in it's own words of the underwater flow.

This idea of living beings holding a memory in their organic structure is a very exciting subject that I hope to explore more someday. And though it is illustrated rather simply here, I think the most fun part is that each memory has it's own vocabulary, here, the meanding branches of our Coraliek.