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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 14:04 GMT
Exhibition puts stocks in lights
Stock Market Planetarium Black Shoals
Artificial creatures swarm around active stocks
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The shining stars of the stock market should be easier to spot as artists create a planetarium that represents listed companies with lights that glow brightly when shares in them are heavily traded.

The whole idea behind it is to explore the relationship between behaviour and activity on the stock market

Anne-Marie Highley, Reuters
The flickering, glowing stars will form constellations made up of stocks in allied industries to make an immersive experience powered by live market data.

Also inhabiting the planetarium will be some computerised creatures that will feed off the stock market activity and evolve in their struggle to survive in the artificial world.

The stock market planetarium will be exhibited at Tate Britain in London, UK, from 6 March as part of an Art and Money Online exhibition.

Money in motion

The planetarium is the creation of Danish artist Lise Autogena and software whizz-kid Joshua Portway. The installation is sponsored by Reuters, which is supplying the trading information on the 4,000 companies which have a star in the planetarium.

Stock Market Planetarium Black Shoals
Bright star: The huge star at the centre-top is Cisco Systems
Trading information will be taken from different exchanges as the day passes. In the morning, the FTSE and CAC 400 exchanges will be used and in the afternoon Reuters will switch over to information from the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

Each drifting star represents a company and will flicker and glow as shares in it are traded. The greater the volume of shares in a stock that are traded, the brighter the light representing it will shine. Nor will the stars be static. Those representing companies in specific sectors will drift together forming recognisable constellations.

Behind the scenes, computers will watch to see which stock sales are correlated and the stars representing these companies will become attracted to each other forming galaxies that drift across the surface of the dome.

Artificial life signs

Big events on the markets could trigger the formation of other stellar structures. The artists speculate that plummetting prices in a market could cause a vortex to form that sucks in many other stars.

Stock Market Planetarium Black Shoals
The creatures go where the food is
The planetarium is about 2.5 metres across and will be suspended from the ceiling in a gallery at Tate Britain. Comfy chairs will be placed beneath the dome structure so that visitors to the gallery can watch the share universe develop without getting a stiff neck.

But also inhabiting the planetarium are computerised creatures that feed off the flow of capital like plants feed off sunlight.

"The whole idea behind it is to explore the relationship between behaviour and activity on the stock market," said Anne-Marie Highley, director of sponsorship at Reuters. "The idea being that where a stock is very active, you get a lot of activity and creatures clustering round it to feed off it."

Predators and parasites

Experts in artificial life software have advised the artists on the creation of these computerised creatures, which will slowly evolve to make the most of their electronic environment. The creatures will have to learn how to move around, feed, reproduce and survive.

The creatures have their own DNA which takes the form of a genetic algorithm which defines their form and what they can do in the artificial world.

Previous work by the scientists advising the artists has produced a world populated by grazers, predators, parasites and hyperparasites that borrow the computer codes of other creatures for their own ends.

To create the computer creatures that populate the planetarium, Ms Autogena and Mr Portway worked with artificial life experts such as Tom Ray. Mr Ray invented the Tierra artificial world that he used to study the dynamics of evolution.

The planetarium is part of the Art Now: Art and Money Online exhibition at Tate Britain which runs from 6 March to June

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