Ant Ballet

Ant Ballet is a six-year research project into control systems, paranoia and dancing insects. The project is separated into four phases.


Phase I

Phase I (2010-2012) included thorough research into ants and control systems, synthesis of ant pheromones and testing of these systems with live ants in Barcelona. Through use of synthesised pheromones (Z9:16 Ald Hexadecenal), a robotic arm lays trails which cause ants to move in a different way to their natural foraging behaviour. This phase proves the viability of the research and technologies.


Phase II

The first live performance of Ant Ballet. Anticipated in Brazil as part of Pestival, 2013.


Phase III

Development of intercontinental ant telecommunication devices.


Phase IV

Destruction (undetermined).


Public display

ZSL London Zoo / BUGS zone, November 2011 – May 2012
Ant Ballet: Phase I machine and Ant Ballet simulation software.
Part of Pestival@ZSL residency.


FutureEverything Festival / Manchester,
16 May – 7 June 2012
Documentation of Phase I alongside maquette showing Ant Ballet simulation software.


We Make Money Not Art Radio interview, 14 Dec 2012
Journal of Wild Culture, 12 Dec 2012
Wired Magazine, 1 Sep 2012
BBC Mundo, 29 May 2012
Manoto TV, 28 May 2012
BBC News, 25 May 2012
Fast Company Design, 23 May 2012
Dazed & Confused, 21 May 2012
We Make Money Not Art, 17 May 2012
Manchester Evening News, 11 May 2012
Wired UK, 24 March 2012
New Scientist, 22 March 2012
BBC Radio 4 “Front Row”, 23 September 2011

Project credits

Design, art direction, programming, video, music editing by Ollie Palmer.
Some code has been adapted from Daniel Shiffman‘s book the Nature of Code.
Music remixed from “Untitled 13″ by Lucky Dragons.

This project has been made possible thanks to
The Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL
– Prof. Stephen Gage, Ruairi Glynn and Godofredo Pereira / Helen Floate and Heechan Park
Pestival – Bridget Nicholls
Zoological Society London – Dr. Seirian Sumner
UCL Organic Chemistry – Prof. Jim Anderson and Jack Bestwick
DuPont Corian®
Universita Autonoma Barcelona – Xavier Espadaler
La familias Colet-Castaño y Prieto-Botella
My family (in particular Tessa Young)



Ant Ballet by Ollie Palmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. This essentially means that you can repost and display the video it where you like, as long as it is attributed back to the original author and linked to this site. If you are in any doubt, or would like to let Ollie know you’ve used the video somewhere, please just drop him an email!