0h!m1gas: biomimetic stridulation environment

Oh!m1gas is a tribute to the sophistication and organization of ant colonies, where the activity of each individual is predetermined and contributes to the life of the colony as a whole. Kuai Shen's installation at InterAccess consists of turntables, cameras, contact microphones, video monitors, speakers and a plexiglass structure housing 1,000 live ants. This biomimetic environment, as explained by Shen, "is based on a 'do-it-yourself' approach to bioacoustics, measuring the vibratory sounds and mapping the activity of an ant colony and their relation to the artificial ecosystem where they live. By means of contact microphones and video surveillance interfaced with the computer, which then feeds this bio-data to two turntables, the life of the ant colony emerges as a soundscape of scratching effects." The scratching of the needle on the turntable is directly linked to the activities of the ants who produce their own scratching (called "stridulation") in order to communicate with their cohorts as they work. The handsome vivarium that contains the ants allows the viewer to watch the colony at work, building nests and harvesting leaves that are the processed into a mush that will grow the fungus to feed the colony.

Shen regards these miniature ecosystems as models to be considered in the creation of other interactive systems. The specific analogue qualities of the turntable and the vinyl record are generated from, but also stand in contrast with, the stridulation of the labouring ants. Turntables, and scratching in particular, exist in the aesthetic or cultural realm, while the scratching of the ants is for purely practical purposes. Here we have the intersection and interaction of a system of labour and a system of leisure, in the context of the art gallery and the festival. Thus we can understand this biomimetric stridulation environment as a system among systems, one that has as much to say about humans as it does about ants.

Kuai Shen holds a BA in digital arts from University San Francisco de Quito,
Ecuador and a Diploma in Medienkunst with honours from the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, and he recently finished interdisciplinary research in Game Design and Development at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne.