Saturday, November 19, 2011, 8:30 PM – 8:45 PM
Mocap studio, Intersections Digital Studios, Emily Carr University of Art + Design

0h!m1gas: scratching ants, audiovisual installation (2008-2011)
by Kuai Shen

Ants represent a matriarchal superorganism, an autopoietic machine whose patterns and algorithms humans can materialize in form, sounds and expressions. Ants accomplish the generation of bottom-up structures communicating mainly by pheromones, but they also produce modulatory vibrations, called stridulations, to call for help, to recruit nestmates for defense, to inform about the quality of the leaves, and stridulations even serve as a pneumatic mechanism to cut vegetation or dig out trapped nestmates underground. Stridulation is basically the production of vibratory sounds by rubbing two parts of the ant’s exoskeleton against each other.

0h!m1gas is an artistic research and audiovisual installation that investigates the stridulation phenomena and the self-organization in ants approaching it as a cybernetic system with emergent manifestations. It is a biomimetic stridulation environment that explores the interspecific communication between human technology and ant media translating movement, social activity and labour production of a leafcutter ant colony into scratching.

By means of contact microphones and motion tracking cameras based on computer vision algorithms, the ant colony is being video and audio surveilled. A pair of turntables responds to the changes that emerge from the colony by spinning vinyl records and producing scratching sounds, similar to the original stridulations of the ants. The emergent music created by the scratching turntables in combination with the stridulations of the ants instantiate a sound reactive space, which reveals the connection between scratching, as an aesthetical expression created by human culture, and the stridulation phenomena produced by ants as a modulation mechanism for communication.

Kuai Shen was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He holds a BA in digital arts and an MA in media arts with honors from the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. He has brought his work, exploring the cybernetic emergence of ants into new territories, from Quito to New York and now to Cologne. His artistic approach to self-organization and emergence is envisioned in four installations, inspired by the relations and intensities between human and ant media: “Recurrent Ant Dream #1”, “1.ant.ity”, “The Cybernetic Emergence of Ants” and “0h!m1gas: biomimetic stridulation environment”. His current research focuses on game design and theory based on his interdisciplinary artistic/scientific work with ants at the University of Applied Sciences.

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