Alan Dorin, 2012

Pandemic is an interactive (camera-based input) generative audio/visual electronic artwork. The software abstracts the process of disease transmission to realise a dynamic, aesthetic object inspired by a natural process that crosses continents to harry the human population, sometimes with devastating effects.

The challenge for the artist was to look beyond the horror that pandemics initiate, and to seek instead a sense of wonder at the intricacy of nature. Many artworks have tried to convey the dread and anguish caused by sickness and disease (including the artist's earlier work, Plague). Perhaps it is also possible to marvel at its beauty. In this work, the gallery visitor plays an active role – that of an unintentional carrier of disease.

As in many of my earlier works, Pandemic takes as its building block the organism, which is represented in this case as a simple geometric structure specified by a set of numbers that act like its DNA. These numbers specify the organism's colour and structure as well as its behaviour. Each organism has preferences for mates of particular visual characteristics. These it seeks out in the planar landscape across which it roams. If two organisms encounter one another and are mutually attracted, they may reproduce, giving rise to a new organism. Their offspring inherits DNA from each of its parents, and hence a mixture of their visual and behavioural characteristics.

The visitor to the initial utopian Pandemic brings with them contaminants in the form of coloured clothing. The more colourful the garb the worse it will be for the virtual organisms since each new colour introduced acts as a transmissible disease. If any virtual agent traverses the portal that links their world to the outside, they risk infection. From then on, as the organisms wander they may encounter another that is infected by a coloured disease. Perhaps this is carried by a potential mate, perhaps just by an organism that is passing by. If the colour of the disease to which they are exposed matches that of the organism, the infection spreads. Some organisms survive infection and later exhibit immunity when re-exposed to the same disease. Others perish. The process continues indefinitely as the organisms and diseases co-evolve in an ongoing arms race to out-compete one another and as new diseases are introduced by human visitors. The result is a vibrant and dynamic installation that is never the same on two occasions and to which new visitors bring new elements.


The work was first exhibited at Bouillants #4, Vern-sur-Seiche, Brittany, France, Gaëtan Allin and Laurent Dupuis (artistic directors), 22 April - 20 May, 2012.

Summary exhibition requirements: space 3mx5m; square projection screen 2mx2m; Macintosh "Mini" computer; DLP data projector; cabling; 4 x 50 watt (RMS) powered stereo speakers, USB colour camera, spotlight, 50cm diameter circular floor mat. Provided by the artist: Pandemic software. For further information regarding the exhibition of this work please contact the artist.

Pandemic Space

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