degenerative cultures + digital spores


Degenerative Cultures is the winner of the 2018 Lumen Prize BCS Award in Artificial Intelligence.

Degenerative Cultures is an interactive work of art in which living organisms, social networks and Artificial Intelligence work together to corrupt the human impulse to master nature. Books that deal with the human desire to control nature serve as food for a colony of microorganisms. Next to the book with live fungi is a computer monitor. An intelligent digital fungus searches the Internet and corrupts texts with the same predatory intent. These two systems, one organic and the other informational, communicate through a digital interface. The digital fungus integrates Artificial Intelligence with generative algorithms based on the growth of living organisms. Anyone can interact with the system through twitter and help to destroy the texts. Degenerative Cultures  is a “biohybrid” artwork, as it integrates living and digital systems in a single network.


Degenerative Cultures is the work of Cesar & Lois artists Cesar Baio and Lucy HG Solomon with Jeremy Speed Schwartz. Lucy HG Solomon and Cesar Baio conceived of the project across continents and laboratories in distant institutions – Lucy at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), Cesar at i-DAT at the University of Plymouth. Jeremy contributed from Alfred State in New York. Biologists Scott Morgans (CSUSM) and Joao Ignacio (University of Brighton) grew cultures for Degenerative Cultures. Undergraduate researcher Kodie Gerritsen and professor of literature and writing Sandra Doller and her students at CSUSM contributed substantively to the project’s analysis. Reno Beserra, graduate researcher at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil, contributed to the project’s development, and artist Heather Barnett donated Phsyarum polycephalum for the project’s UK exhibition. Phsyarum polycephalum grew in closets, drawers, laboratories and offices, but mostly on books. Degenerative Cultures is truly a collaborative project!