The VIDA Art and Artificial Life International Awards was started in 1999 by Fundación Telefónica and continued until 2014, to support artistic investigation into artificial life and to promote production in this field.
Its own particular framework, art and artificial life, forms part of that multidisciplinary territory where art, science and technology come together. This crossroads between fields underpins the spirit of the prizes, whose trajectory is known for its innovative and visionary character.
Artificial life is described as a way to approach the complexity of living things. Living systems, which are set apart by their dynamic properties and their autonomy, are routinely replicated in industry today through the use of advanced computing. In the area of science, these same systems are being considered by theoretical biology, mathematics and the study of complex systems. But it is in the field of art where the many facets of the simulation of life are expressed, by examining both the formal possibilities and the scenarios in which they are expressed. Life takes place in art through responsive architectures, information and data networks, virtual or augmented spaces, or in the laboratory though synthetic or biological cultures.
VIDA, an award with a total of €82,000 in prizes, rose out of this interrelationship and has its origins in the creative effervescence of the media art of the nineties. When the worldwide web began to show an unprecedented ability to create networks and activate synergies, a group of artists conceived of VIDA as an initiative that would provide artists with resources. At the time, lively debates on scientific topics and the new possibilities offered by cutting-edge techniques were highlighting the need to create platforms where the different fields of knowledge could meet. It was thanks to Fundación Telefónica’s ability to support experimentation that the contest was started and some of the most daring experts in the field have joined its ranks as members of the jury over the consecutive years.
Being based on one concept, artificial life, VIDA can readily be differentiated from other competitions. While other awards, festivals and events in the field of media art focus on the technological means, VIDA was devoted to a concept that had only appeared recently: artificial life. This was without doubt a risky choice, because of the speculation involved. However, this steadfastness has given the awards considerable value by linking them to research. Over the years, VIDA has been a project that not only provides creators with the financial resources to produce their works; it has also played an essential role in publicising an up-and-coming practice in the art which they were pioneers in.
Since it began, VIDA has awarded prizes to more than two hundred art and artificial life projects covering a broad range of perspectives. In the first editions, predominated proposals that explored robotics, chaos algorithms and cellular automatons, but in recent editions there has been a particular interest in examining the impact of biotechnology, environmental and ecological issues and the dynamics of information networks. However, there is one common interest among all the prize winners: a desire to identify the dichotomies of organic/synthetic and natural/artificial. Because of this, the art in VIDA demonstrates a unique ability to challenge some of the key notions that are inspiring discussions of great importance. VIDA therefore makes us reflect on the not-too-distant future, in which nature can be imagined as being hybrid and the borders between the fields of knowledge are disappearing.