An entymological adventure coaxing choreography from a company of obstinate insects
As humans, we are used to hierarchical control systems. Ants are different – they use pheromones to communicate and connect with each other, building complex networks from simple feedback loops.
Working with a team of chemical scientists and entomologists, Ant Ballet is an attempt to ‘hack’ the communication protocols of ants. Witness the trials and tribulations of the first attempts to create choreography, and intercontinental ant colony communication through the use of synthesised chemical compounds.
Ollie Palmer is an artist and designer. Based at the Bartlett School of Architecture, he is a tutor in RC3 on the Graduate Architectural Design course. He has travelled around the world, hitchhiked across Iceland and taught IT skills in the heart of the Amazon. He is a collaborator with Open_H20 (developing open source oceanic technologies) and a Getty Images contributing photographer. www.olliepalmer.com
I taught a workshop with Ruairi Glynn for the Adaptive Architectural Computation and our very own Interactive Architecture Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Over the course of 9 days, students learnt to prototype and build small interactive electronic systems. Among the machines were a candy floss thrower, an Aurora Borealis emulator, and a three-person ping-pong ball game.
Sarah Lester wrote a particularly lovely article about the Ant Ballet in the brand-new Journal of Wild Culture after we spent a day together dressed in emergency ant invasion clothing. You can read her article here.
Here’s a video that FutureEverything made explaining a little about the Ant Ballet project, as installed at FutureEverything’s art exhibition earlier this year. It shows the simulation-version of the Ant Ballet machine in the spectacular setting of Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).
And speaking of MOSI, Here’s Jean Franczyk, its Director, talking through the exhibition, its links with FutureEverything, and some of the artworks on show:
There are more videos from FutureEverything’s exhibition and conference here.
Read a little more about Ant Ballet here.
Thanks to Heechan Park for the huge role he played in the assembly of the machine!
Video by Ollie Palmer / 3D animation Diony Kypraiou / artist Ruairi Glynn / Camera Ollie Palmer & Ronan Glynn
The piece is currently residing in a warehouse somewhere in the east of London, but will be open to the public in the Tate Tanks between 21-22 August 2012. There’s a private view in the evening of the 22nd – if you’d like to come along, please do drop me an email!
NB – I’ll be updating this page as the project develops with more photos, videos, press clippings, etc.
I have been invited to give a talk about dancing ants at the Natures Stage of Wilderness Festival, taking place between 10-12 August 2012 in beautiful Oxfordshire. I can’t wait to get there and take in a wealth of music, talks, food and country air!
Installed in Victoria Park for the duration of the Olympics, the Universal Tea Machine is a computer that relies on teamwork and calculation to produce the perfect cup of tea. The Heath-Robinson-esque machine enables the audience to make their ‘perfect’ cup of tea by solving binary calculation maths problems. If their calculation is too high, they might get too many teabags; not high enough, and they may not get a teabag at all.
I designed and fabricated the mechanisms and electronics that enable tea to get made: the ‘kitchen’ unit. Here’s a short video showing the mechanisms in action: