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home > Electronic Artwork > "Eight-Bit Ant Farm"
Kinetic light Sculpture

"Eight-Bit Ant Farm"
completed September 2002
29" X 29" X 29"
Collaborative artwork with
Remo Campopiano and Jonathan Schull

Dorsky Museum installation 8/02                 Mills Gallery installation 3/03


See also my page detailing the design and construction of this piece.

This is a process based artwork that interprets the chaotic motion of ants and the surrounding viewers and displays the results as moving and illuminated ping pong balls.  2 video cameras record views of the interior of a box containing ants, and an overhead view of the artwork and surrounding area.  The images are digitized every 10 seconds and processed to form a composite images which are shown in a progressive sequence on the display screen of a laptop computer in a mirror lined box that reflect this image endlessly out into a curved surface. 

Data derived from the change in positions of ants and people from one sampled video frame to the next is mapped to an 8X8 grid and then sent to the lighted balls.  The display screen shows red and yellow circles to indicate detected differences between sampled images.  Red lit balls indicate the movement of ants, while yellow ones indicate movement of people.  The lights update row by row in a slow raster scan.  Data on people movement is also sent to the second box of balls. These balls are triggered to jump up in the locations of the grid that indicate motion within the view of the overhead camera.  The sound is somewhat like popcorn popping in short bursts every 10 seconds.  The bouncing balls are fired by solenoids in a raster sequence that creates staccato bursts as rows of balls are fired into the air inside their cube.

This artwork was first conceived by Remo Campopiano specifically for a show that he was invited to participate in on the theme of complexity theory.  Remo invited me to collaborate on the project shortly after we met.  Jonathan who is an old friend of Remo's had already committed to working on the project.  Remo had worked with ants before in other large scale installations and felt that ants would contribute the essential nature of chaos to the work.  My contribution was the idea of ping pong balls bouncing around inside an acrylic cube to convey a visual sense of chaos.  The idea of lit ping pong balls evolved from the creative dynamic of the collaboration.  Jonathan brought computer programming and advanced conceptual skills to the project.  It is his software that unifies the piece by processing and visually interpreting the video images from 2 cameras.

These views show the the computer screen showing ant and people derived imagery and illuminated pong balls.
Red circles represent ant movement, and yellow ones people movement -- they also indicate which
balls light up and bounce.

Closer view of the red and yellow lit balls (combining into amber in the overlaps) and bouncing balls.

A view inside the ant box with video camera above, and a closer view of them clustering around food.

The interior walls of the ant box are lined with green oasis foam as used by florists, this was kept wet in order to provide life sustaining water for the ants.  It was Remo's intention that the ants would eat trails all the way through the 1/4" thick material allowing people to see through the holes.  Since this took longer than expected we added mirrors above the box to allow people to see down into the ant box.  The hole in the center of the back lit floor provides forced ventilation to the sealed box, air exits through tiny holes in the top

Here is the team on site completing the installation and programming at the Dorsky Museum.  Remo above left is filling the ant box with water, while Jonathan center programs the graphics code, and I am finalizing control code for the illuminated balls.


See also my page detailing the design and construction of this piece.


8/14/02 - 11/24/02 "Complexity"
Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, NY. 
3/20/03 - 7/6/03 "info@blah: Overload and Organization"
The Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA.
9/03 - 11/03 Federal Reserve Gallery, Washington, DC.

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