I spent a few days on Easter Island in 2005. It’s a funny place – technically part of Chile, and about half the size of the Isle of Wight, and formed from three volcanoes. It’s the most remote island in the world. Most of the three thousand residents live in the town. There are wild horses.
Moai on the east coast of Easter Island. Photo by Ollie Palmer.
Easter Islands’ stone heads were carved by tribes who lived on opposite sides of the island: the Hanau epe (Long Ears) and the Hanau momoko (Short Ears). Both wanted more heads to prove how much better they were than the other tribe. The construction of the heads led to the deforestation of the island, and used so much of its resources that there was widespread famine, and a huge population loss. It is an example of how an entire culture can lose perspective.
The moai in the British Museum is from the Short Ears side of the island. It would have originally been painted red. It is called Hakananai’a, which translates as ‘Stolen or Hidden Friend’.
My favourite part of the statue is not the fond memories it evokes, but the plinth it stands on. Over the years so many people thought it would be hilarious to touch the sign that says ‘Please do not touch’ that, although it has since been removed, its outline is preserved in greasy fingerprints. It’s like a footpath which emerges on a patch of grass; but this time from lots of people doing the same joke.
Invisible Dust invites you to a presentation by New York experimenter, environmental engineer and artist Natalie Jeremijenko together with the ‘Ant Ballet’ artist and designer Ollie Palmer discussing with Invisible dust host and artist Kasia Molga how technology is being driven by artists to explore, conserve and relate to our environment.
Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. She was recently named one of the 40 most influential designers by I.D. Magazine and listed in Fast Company’s most influential women in technology. Jeremijenko is the director of the environmental health clinic and associate professor at New York University.
Ollie Palmer is a designer and artist. He is a collaborator with Open H2O and Protei (open source projects developing oceanic technologies) and a tutor in the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL.
Kasia Molga is a media artist who explores changes in our perception and relationship with the planet in the increasingly technologically mediated world. She deals with real time environment and data visualisation – where the data becomes a pretext, motor and platform behind the work. Kasia Molga is one of the artists working on a research proposal for Invisible Heat, Invisible Dust’s new project about climate change and health.
It’s a 2.5m-long camera which scans the border between the public and hidden spaces of the gallery, and will be whirring away creating large photographs all evening. It is an homage to Kubrick and Tarkovsky, and a prototype for a system that I’ll be using in Norway over the coming weeks.
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!