30:37 / HD Video / 2021
In the mid 1980’s an Harvard trained biologist created a computer virus. While researching the reproductive capacities of HIV he had become fascinated by computer networks, in how their infrastructures mirrored ecological systems. Combining these interests he created a new type of computer virus, one whose code would be modeled on the biological. Though there had been earlier computer viruses, they had largely been sophomoric pranks and technical exercises, contained to college computer labs. His would be the first to be maliciously released to the public, the first to understand the financial potential of data. Trained to target its victims, locking down their computers and holding them to financial ransom, he had created the first ransomware virus. Tracing the creation, spread and destructive conceptual legacy of this virus, “Pervading Animal” finds in its violent wake surprising connections to the US invasion of Panama, the aesthetics of pioneering computational art and the construction of a butterfly conservatory in upstate New York.
Witnessing encounters between butterflies and other agencies, from children to dogs to koala bears, in the wild and in the home, the film uses sensorially overloaded found footage gathered online from around the world - blurring the line between vibrant digital pixilation and the luminous flutters of butterflies, between the screen and the natural world. Coupled with an archival new age synthesiser score, inspired by the sounds of nature, “Pervading Animal” is in equal parts systems literacy and kaleidoscopic ecological fantasia. Co-written by an outmoded computer virus, coded to guess what animal the victim was thinking of and produced through visual collaboration with various other early computer viruses, documenting the wild visual affects left as they infected the computer system used the edit the film. These more-than-human collaborations attempt to reroute the narrative structure of these nascent computer viruses, turning their ecological metaphors on their heads - along the way asking what it is to fashion the digital after the biological, and how the biological comes to be organized, shaped and felt through the digital.