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Kuai Shen Ohm1gas 2012 Image by Rob Battersby Installation view at FACT 2 jpg

Ecuadorian artist and ant lover Kuai Shen presents a living artwork: a reactive sound installation within which a community of leafcutter ants become DJs, controlling the movement of two turntables. The ants communicate using chemical messages (called pheromones), body language (touching or stroking each other) and acoustic vibrations called ‘stridulations’, which they produce by shaking their abdomens up and down so that two body

parts rub against each other. This generates minuscule sounds that can be heard when amplified. The ants’ movement in the nest is tracked by computer and this data is used to rotate the turntables, making the vinyl records rub against the needles. This creates scratching compositions in response to the ants’ social behaviours: farming fungus, tending the young, building the nest, moving material, and composting waste.

Exploring the relationship between human technology and the social structures of ants, the work draws analogies between ‘scratching’ as a form of human musical expression and the ants’ stridulation sounds.

*biomimetic = the imitation of systems used in nature

Courtesy of the artist.