AANN: Artificial Analog Neural Network (AANN) is an interactive, handmade electronic sculpture that responds to environmental stimuli in a display of light and sound. The sculpture is a 45 neuron network whose topology was influenced by multi-layered connectionist network models used in neural network computing , and by the Fibonacci based branching of natural systems. AANN’s structure is a skeletal network of analog electronic components, drawing inspiration for its design from forms observed in early plant and marine life, and technological objects of modern telecommunications (satellites, antennas, transmitter towers, etc.). Though designed to approximate neural network behavior, AANN is not a tool for running calculations; the project is meant to give a physical and interactive form to otherwise abstract computational theories used by computer scientists in pattern recognition applications.
As one approaches AANN in an exhibition space, one is confronted with an intricate frame-like network electronics, about the size of a medium sized dog, suspended at about shoulder height. The front portion of the sculpture is a dome-like structure with yellow discs (photo sensors) evenly distributed along its framework. The body of the sculpture is a radially symmetrical mass of tiny electronic components held together by bare wire, with yellow, orange, and red insulated wire connecting various parts within. The sculpture will periodically emit quick chirps or tone bursts descending in pitch, and small red lights distributed throughout the sculpture light up with each outburst. The cause is not immediately known to the viewer, but the invitation for interaction is irresistible. Waving and clapping hands, even shouting, makes the sculpture blink, twitter and chirp more vigorously, and occasionally the fragile mass of electronics chatters on its own for a few moments before se
ttling back down. Eventually the temptation is for the viewer to adopt the sculpture’s language and to “speak” to it by chirping and whistling in turn.
AANN occupies the space between varying disciplines of art (music, sound art, media art and interactive installation, and sculpture) while simultaneously drawing heavily upon the sciences (neurobiology, cognitive science, network science, and electronics). The project follows a tradition within music of exploring generative systems — i.e. works by David Tudor, Felix Hess, League of Automatic Composers, George Lewis, and David Rosenboom amongst others — and was inspired by James Tenney’s work on harmonic lattices (pitch spaces)and by Douglas Repetto’s “Crash and Bloom”, an electronic sculpture made up of networked units that “exhibits emergent behavior similar to the ‘crash and bloom’ cycles experienced by many biological systems.”