Month: September 2011

Ant Ballet

Ant Ballet

Ant Ballet is a 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.

Phase III

Development of intercontinental ant telecommunication devices.

Phase IV

Destruction (undetermined).

So far, Phase I has been completed.

More information

More information about this project can be found in Chapter 1 of my PhD thesis.

Public display

  • 2014 Big Data: Designing with the Materials of Life / Lethaby Gallery, Central St Martins, London
  • 2012 FutureEverything Festival / Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
  • 2011-12 London Zoo / London
  • 2011 Graduate Architectural Design Show / Bartlett School of Architecture, London



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:

Godot Machine

Godot Machine

The Godot Machine is a device which monitors and prevents the movement of a single ant.

An ant sits atop a white globe, monitored from above by a camera. As the ant moves forwards, the sphere rotates backwards. As the ant moves left, the sphere moves right. No matter which direction the ant moves in, the sphere will always return the ant to the top. The ant will always remain on top of her world.

As ants use pheromone trails to communicate and find food, a well-fed ant should start laying a pheromone trail. Once she reaches her original starting point, she may choose to follow her trail. The more she follows the trail, the more she strengthens it, and thus the more attractive it becomes…

The Godot Machine is the first part of the Ant Ballet project, a multi-year investigation featuring control systems, paranoia and insects.

More information

More information about this project can be found in Chapter 1 of my PhD thesis.


Ollie and Abi Palmer

My sister Abi Palmer is the most fun person to spend time with. I will miss her whilst I’m away doing projects in foreign lands over the coming years.

We made this video one evening in 2011 at the Southbank Centre. I think we were supposed to be seeing a show, but danced in a gallery instead.




Investigation of adaptive urban environments, and creating systems that react to the way people use space. Prototypes mimic a variety of animal mechanisms such as woodlice and snakes.


  • Design, video, programming | Ollie Palmer
  • Music | Mirror Fun by Lucky Dragons (available here)

Bartlett M.Arch Show 2011

The Bartlett School of Architecture M.Arch show will be opening on the 27th September at Wates House. Amongst the myriad of interesting and bizarre projects will be an Ant Ballet machine, and some related films.

Opening times
Tuesday 18:00 – 21:00
Wednesday – Friday 10:00 – 18:00
Saturday 10:00 – 16:00
(The opening is probably the best time to come, but it’s open to the public for the rest of the week too.)

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The Facebook-inclined may wish to gleam their infomation from this page.


Talk – Camden School of Enlightenment

Ant Ballet

An entomological adventure coalescing choreography from (somewhat) obstinate insects

On the 13th September, I’ll be giving a 20 minute talk on the Ant Ballet – the madcap road trip to Barcelona to shoot a film about tiny ants following suspicious-looking trails. It will also be the first public outing of the Ant Ballet film. What’s more, it’s free, and the other people talking are pretty interesting too.
More details here