SuperOrganism represents the first pilot project of LuminousBees team in the research field of the “Aerial Media Arts” (A.M.A.).
By A.M.A. we mean applications that explore the expressive and representative potentialities of aerial space with micro aerial robots, on the one hand as semi-permanent systems of Aerial Data Visualization, -developing in this way very useful devices for the edutainment objectives that we embrace; on the other as powerful instruments creating new languages that display themselves in storytelling-dramaturgical forms apt to investigate relevant themes for the collectivity from a social point of view.
The inspiration for this installation is the biology of honey bees. We have been fascinated for many years by their eusocial organization, which scientists have defined as creative of a “Superorganism”.
The Honey bees’ Superorganism appears as a system with distributed intelligence, able to regulate itself in response to the environment through complex behavioral strategies.
Today this is an environment that is getting more and more compromised by the invasive imprint of human societies. One effect is that the continued existence of honey bees is seriously in jeopardy and with it the delicate ecological equilibrium that they have co-originated with pollination processes of angiosperms. Since around a thirty of years honey bees seriously risk to extinguish, and with them the fitness of the reproduction system of flowering plants.
We decided to narrate this story in its bio-cybernetic character, with honey bees being the starting point to call the spectators to a collective participative process.
A hive with a family of bees placed in Linz Botanical Garden is observed during the festival by a special camera coupled with a behavior-recognition and georeferencing system in order to sample instances of the honey bees’ “Waggle Dance”. Through this social behavior, which was decoded and studied by Nobel laureate ethologist Karl von Frisch, foragers honey bees can communicate the direction and the distance to the flowers or to water sources elected as pastures, or to the destinations for the new hives.
The audience is invited at the same time to provide evidence of foragers’ feeding operations, moving to the detected target places through a GPS navigation system available on the Superorganism App that spectators can download on their smartphones.
The data gathered will reach the Digital Hive of the SuperOrganism and will be represented as a dynamic map on interactive screens that will be available at the installation stands and online. Moreover, we will display a documentary informing the audience about the ecological ordeal that honey bees are suffering due to environmental pollution.
In addition, detailed information about several international projects about biodiversity conservation and biomonitoring through the employment of honey bees, developed by different scientific institutions that support the installation, will be curated and presented to the festival and we will provide an overview on the biomonitoring studies that can be expanded upon the observation method of the waggle dances that we have adopted.
At the core of the event will be the daily evening performance of Luminous Bees quadcopters (among fifty and one hundred units), displaying aerial choreographies in Linz Skyscape inspired by the observed waggle dances and the contribution process of the public.
The performance as a co-created aesthetic experience gains the meaning of an artistic rite of the community, which – as well as the entire synesthetic-cybernetic process we have created – is intended to reawaken people to the interconnection of the living system and the resulting civil and individual responsibilities it generates.
In this way, within the whole bee superorganism installation, the character of cybernetic intelligence of bee superorganism amplifies its homeostasis process and assumes the hybrid one of an extended SuperOrganism: an hyper-ecosystem that encompasses the animal, vegetable, and human worlds, as well as that of data and of robots.
SuperOrganism – a presentation by Paolo Atzori
LuminousBees displays an ecosystem, the SuperOrganism, consisting of People, Insects and Robots.
Living in the age of Industry 4.0 it is crucial to provide a real urban space for rising public awareness about key factors driving these changes. Two main facts are urging the development of this project:
- According to EEA Report | No 5 /2014 “Estimates of the health impacts attributable to exposure to air pollution indicate that fine particulate matter concentrations in 2011 were responsible for about 458.000 premature deaths in Europe;
- meanwhile Honey Bees continue to die from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) at unprecedented increasing rates, in some country about 40-50% of the bees population.
Since 2013 LuminousBees has started a set of different initiatives to increase and share research in the related fields, realizing specifically designed system of robots and raising dedicated beehives for direct observations, seeking to connect sharing information and integrate the relative findings within the widest of contexts.
The current research-team consists of Media Artists, Digital Environment Designers and Scientists coming from different fields (Robotics, Biology, Ethology) together with a group of technicians (hardware and software developers).
Inspired by a shared vision of Cybernetics, the site specific project of the team, “SuperOrganism”, is an urban Cyber-Art event for experiencing an expanded knowledge where the unparalleled chemosensory ability of Honey Bees is joined to a set of novel UAV driven by an Artificial Intelligence system (possiamo dirlo??? o riserviamo per L.Bees 3.0?) and designed by modularity in order to host different set of technologies.
Main goal of the project is to create a relational data-set linked to the specific (aerial) space of different European cities, uniting the approaches, of presence and local interaction [the public square system] together with a global diffusion and global communication [the new media and digital network system].
LuminousBees consists of three main elements:
1 Honey Bees
2 Robots (Drones)
3 Humans (Citizens)
Each group originates Data Streams that reach the memory of the system (the Digital Hive) that supplies the processing of artistic and scientific communication forms. The Digital Hive originates several meanings, all of them interconnected.
Following, are the different productions for the event.
1 A swarm of Flying Robots (LuminousBees quadcopters) representing on the city sky a synesthetic multimedia choreography inspired by the Waggle Dance of the honey-bees.
2 the production of Datascapes reporting on the Air Quality of Cities that host The SuperOrganism.
(NB: Setting up this system in different European cities we reach one of the main purposes of this work, the determination of a representative atlas).
3 The Development of an interactive documentary (Documentary Web) on the importance of bees to Our ecosystem.
A presentation of LuminousBees -by Jeanne Charlotte Vogt
In this text J.C. Vogt presents LuminousBees, focusing particularly on its role in front of the ambivalence of the drones as robots and to its meaning for the regulamentation and management of the aerial public space.
In the project “LuminousBees” the drone, one of the most ambivalently discussed technological objects of our times, will be investigated as a co-performer and collaborator in the creation of an opera for a multi-drone performance piece. Giorgio Rinolfi, as a maker, visual artist, interaction design expert – and beekeeper – will focus an in-depth analysis and development of a communication and interaction language for illuminated drones and humans that will allow for an innovative set-up for environmental choreographies based on the movement patterns and logics of the superorganism of a bee swarm.
In times of a growing presence of technology in political, labour and private contexts, the question of machine autonomy is highly ambivalent. We delegate work to increasingly autonomous robots and, at the same time, fear the loss of control over artificial intelligence. We understood that technology, as a device of political, commercial and communicative power, is never neutral. In the face of such developments, it is ever more crucial to negotiate on how to design the modality of our collaboration with the machine, in production, in politics and also in the emotionally impactful communicative sphere of the arts.
While a few international research groups have already acquired the drone as a performing actor, Luminous Bees will renegotiate the role of the drones in interaction with their human relators. Giorgio Rinolfi, as the artistic engineer, and a team of coders, musicians and visual artists, will aim to create an agile performance system for LED-enlightened drones and pilots that is allowing for real time interaction and co-performance.
The performance group of drones and humans will be investigated as one bio-mechanical superorganism of subtly communicating individuals. As much as bees – and actually unlike the humming drones – are forming one swarm of connected yet completely independent entities, the undeniable agency of the aerial robot can grow into a truly worthwhile aesthetic experience only in its interaction with the group.
The assumption of this dependence in independence will also be influencing the process of collaborative research. In a process of prototyping, evaluation and rebuilding, the aim is to develop a swarm of 20-30 performing drones. The mini drones will be equipped with a completely integrated RGB LED-lightening and movement sensors system allowing for a highly sensitive data analysis and hence a differentiated representation of the drone’s position, behaviour and kinetic “intention”.
On the acoustic side, Rinolfi will collaborate with KyoShinDo, an Italian group of Taiko musicians, who will create the soundscape for the performative environment.
This representation or audio-visual robotic language will enable the communication and interaction in the swarm, between human performers and aerial robots.
As a result of the first real application, the aim is to develop an illuminated drone that is able to negotiate, behave, act and react – or even to take a break and recharge in the safety of its swarm of men and machine. Rinolfi, informed by his engineering knowledge as well as seven years of experience of beekeeping and the study of the behaviour patterns of bees, will explore the communicative and interactive potential of the individual drone. He will define its very language that allows for vivid expression and emotional storytelling as an entity in a complex superorganism.
As a project initiated by makers, who embody the process of bottom-up design of modes of production and open distribution of knowledge, Luminous Bees will finally contribute to the negotiation process on the occupation of the sky as a public space.: While the air is starting to become an object to distribution among the most powerful commercial and political players in the form of surveillance, monitoring or logistics, its redefinition as a space for public communication and a playground for bottom-up created tools and devices is a highly urgent matter.
With Rinolfi, co-founder of the Italian drone development project “Virtual Robotix”, main partner of the work proposed, the research on Luminous Bees will rely on the knowledge and experience of a growing open source development community on creative technologies. Rinolfi and the team of collaborators will be using the infrastructure of the open source drone technology project “Arducopter” and the real time visual programming language vvvv.
Moreover, with the creation of an aerial performance system or collaboration platform for environmental storytelling, the involved artists and makers mean to will design the preconditions for a working-class occupation of the sky. With the human/drone performance group of single entities they will constitute a new maker-cultural ‘mass ornament’ as it was described by Siegfried Kracauer:
<<The synchronised dancing of the enlightened bees will generate aesthetic pleasure reminding us of the repetitive geometry of rows of girls dancing in the early times of industrialization. The dancers themselves were mimicking both the assembly lines in factories and the ordered marching of soldiers and hence affirming and redefining their role in an industrial society, at the same time.>> *
In the awareness of his critical yet affirmative role in a capitalistic system, the acknowledgement of this high degree of ambivalence and his knowledge about processes of production lies the power and the responsibility of the maker of technologically informed arts and the socio-political relevance of the drone as a performative agent.
The aim is to develop a multi-drone performance and choreography based on a unique visual language that allows for the communication among drones and human co-performers.
As part of the creation process, Rinolfi will be regularly offering a public workshop to present his preliminary results, to engage the research community at the lab site into a critical, open exchange and to share his gained knowledge and to finally also allow for local impulses and knowledge to influence his work. Workshops can be offered on a monthly basis.
In collaboration with the Taiko musician group KyoShinDo, he will continuously develop a performance piece that will be shown by the end of the residency-preproduction stage.
* “The mass ornament” di Siegfried Kracauer
SuperOrganism rappresenta il primo progetto pilota del team LuminousBees nel campo di ricerca delle “Aerial Media Arts”.
Per A.M.A. intendiamo applicazioni che esplorino le potenzialità espressive e rappresentative dello spazio aereo con micro aerial robots, da un lato come sistemi semi-permanenti di Aerial Data Visualization, molto utili per le finalità di edutainment che abbracciamo; dall’altro come strumenti per creare nuovi linguaggi capaci di articolarsi in forme di storytelling e drammaturgia, che possano interrogare temi di interesse collettivo.
L’ispirazione per questa installazione è stata la biologia delle api mellifere. Da lungo tempo siamo affascinati dai caratteri della loro organizzazione eusociale, che gli scienziati hanno definito originanti un “superorganismo”.
Il superorganismo ape appare come un sistema con un’intelligenza distribuita, capace di regolarsi in risposta all’ambiente attraverso complesse strategie comportamentali.
Un ambiente che oggi si trova sempre maggiormente compromesso dall’impronta invasiva delle società umane. Un effetto è che la sopravvivenza delle api si trova a essere seriamente a rischio, e con essa il delicato equilibrio ecologico che esse hanno co-originato insieme ai processi di impollinazione delle angiosperme. Da circa una trentina di anni le api mellifere corrono un serio rischio di estinzione, e con esse l’efficacia del sistema di riproduzione delle piante angiosperme.
Abbiamo deciso di narrare questa storia nel suo carattere bio-cibernetico, ove le api assumono il ruolo di punto di partenza per chiamare il pubblico a un processo collettivo di tipo partecipativo.
Un alveare con una famiglia di api situato nell’orto botanico di Linz è osservato lungo la durata del festival da una speciale telecamera che comprende un sistema di individuazione e georeferenziazione dei comportamenti di Waggle Dance delle api. Attraverso la manifestazione della waggle dance, comportamento che venne studiato e decodificato dall’etologo premio Nobel per la medicina e fisiologia Karl von Frisch, le api bottinatrici possono comunicare la direzione e la distanza rispetto ai pascoli di fiori, alle fonti d’acqua, o ai siti adatti per l’insediamento di un nuovo alveare.
Allo stesso tempo il pubblico è invitato a fornire testimonianze delle operazioni di bottinaggio, spostandosi per raggiungere i luoghi segnalati attraverso un sistema di navigazione GPS, disponibile sulla Superorganism App, che gli spettatori possono scaricare sui loro smartphones.
I dati raccolti raggiungeranno il Digital Hive, -l’alveare digitale- del SuperOrganism e saranno rappresentati come una mappa dinamica su schermi interattivi disponibili negli stand dell’installazione e online.
Inoltre verrà realizzato un documentario per informare il pubblico dei problemi ecologici che le api stanno subendo dovuti all’inquinamento ambientale e cureremo una presentazione di alcuni progetti internazionali su indagini di biomonitoraggio e sulla conservazione della biodiversità basati sull’impiego delle api, sviluppati da diverse istituzioni scientifiche. Forniremo dunque una breve panoramica sui progetti di biomonitoraggio che possono essere messi a punto con il metodo di osservazione delle danze adottato e messo a punto per l’installazione.
Al cuore dell’evento ci sarà la performance notturna giornaliera dei droni LuminousBees (tra le cinquanta e le cento unità), che realizzeranno coreografie aeree nello Skyscape di Linz ispirate alle waggle dances che si sono osservate nel corso della giornata e i relativi contributi del pubblico.
La performance, nel suo carattere di esperienza estetica co-creata, guadagnerà così il significato di un rito artistico della comunità, che – come l’intero processo sinestetico–cybernetico che abbiamo sviluppato – intende richiamare gli spettatori all’interconnessione del vivente e alla responsabilità civile che ne risulta.
In questo modo, attraverso l’installazione nella sua globalità, il superorganismo ape, nel suo aspetto di intelligenza cibernetica amplifica il suo processo di omeostasi, arrivando ad assumere il carattere ibrido di un “SuperOrganismo” esteso, un iper-ecosistema comprensivo del mondo animale, vegetale e umano, così come di quello dei data e dei robots.