Evolving Wallpaper

Evolving Wallpaper concept drawing in Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Evolving Wallpaper is an immersive, large-scale, interactive, digital projection in which the audience can participate and accelerate the evolution of the work. It is both a work of art and a system of scientific experimentation.

In this ethereal installation, the motifs float by, rearrange, and respond to a viewer’s touch. The touch of a viewer favors a motif so that, as in nature, the most favored motifs leave their progeny to the next generation. Thus, over the course of weeks, months, and years the wallpaper evolves. The work was inspired by the Victorian era – a time when the worlds of decorative artists and evolutionary biologists intertwined. The development of this work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and has been written about in the journal Science.

Installed in multiple sites, these wallpapers will likely evolve differently in response to the interaction of different audiences. Later meta-exhibitions will compare the evolved wallpapers of multiple sites.

working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper
One of the key values that art offers society, they say, is lateral thinking. By that standard Natalie Settles is a national treasure. She is extraordinary for her ability to move from one framework to another: art to science, drawing to sculpture, decoration to biology, technology to craft. Her latest ambitious project (all her projects are ambitious), Evolving Wallpaper, is a case in point. It reimagines graphic design as an interactive “Petri dish,” an open-ended and ever-changing form that nonetheless retains its own clear identity. It provides a perfect window into Settles' generative mind.
Glenn Adamson, Ph.D., former Director of the Museum of Art and Design, New York, currently Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art
working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper
That is all very exciting, and I never ventured to hope to find a culture that integrates art, philosophy and science in my new homeland, a homeland that has the reputation for prioritizing utility and fast return on investment.... I think that only an integrated culture, where their different parts inspire each other can be a strong and creative culture. I congratulate you to your extraordinary achievement to make the connection work.
Günter P. Wagner, Ph.D., Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary biology at Yale University, National Academy Fellow, MacArthur Fellow
working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper
Natalie Settles’ practice seeks to deepen her understanding of how each of us participates in the world, and how we will participate with the work that she creates in the public realm. The result of these collaborations is work that reflects her methods of complex inquiry as she explores the worlds of art and science, and which resonates with the viewers who find their own stories reflected within.
Sallyann Kluz, Director, Office of Public Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US
working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper
Natalie Settles’ Evolving Wallpaper is a conversation between a computer program and humans about human taste. It learns what attracts people and manifests it with increasing power. This wallpaper is a cybernetic evolutionary system that can be described uncannily with the same mathematical measurements, the same theory, as that which describes the evolution of living systems.
Stephen J. Tonsor, Ph.D, Director of Science and Research, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper
Settles’ work is an artifact resulting from the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas - an act that can only further our collective understanding of knowledge production and our interactions with it.
J.D. Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs, The National Academy of Sciences
working sample of clone motifs from the Evolving Wallpaper