Ollie Palmer’s Ant Ballet is a three-year research project into control systems, paranoia and dancing insects, and has culminated in the world’s first ballet to exclusively feature ants. The projected insects will feature as part of the FutureEverybody Art Exhibition at the 1830 Warehouse.

Through use of a robotic arm, computer vision system and synthesised pheromone (Z9:16 Ald Hexadecenal), technology has been developed that causes a colony of ants to follow artificial trails in preference to their own natural foraging behaviour. It is described as a ‘convergent project between design, art, architecture & a handful of scientists’.

Ant Ballet is separated into four phases. Phase I (2010-2012) included thorough research into ants and control systems, synthesis of ant pheromones and testing of systems with live ants in Barcelona.

FutureEverything is displaying the documentation of Phase I, alongside a simulation of ant trails being disrupted by a model of the Ant Ballet Machine. Phases II-IV (2012-2015) will develop further technologies, chemicals and mechanisms. In 2013 the first public ant ballet performance will be presented at Pestival Sao Paolo.

Ollie Palmer is a designer. He runs Hoog and is a collaborator with Open_Sailing. He has travelled around the world, hitchhiked across Iceland, taught I.T. in the depths of the Amazon and plays with ants. He is a member of the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture and is a Getty Images contributing photographer.

This project has been made possible thanks to Pestival, University College London, Universidad Autonoma Barcelona, Dupont Corian, The John Lewis Family Trust and the Zoological Society London.

FutureEverybody Art Exhibition, 1830 Warehouse, Museum of Science and Industry, Castlefield, Manchester.

16 May – 10 June 2012. Open Daily. Free Entry.

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