Julie Freeman (UK)

Julie Freeman works with living systems in order to stimulate unexpected connections to nature. She enjoys the random unpredictability that animals bring, which cannot be anticipated or synthesised. Freeman’s multi-part work uses real-time data to allow us a peek into the lives of a colony of electronically tagged naked mole-rats. It embodies a broad series of unconventional approaches to working with data to evidence different structures and forms of life. It also pushes the possibilities of data into new artistic territory.

Rodent Activity Transmissions (RAT) systems, 2016 - ongoing

Data visualisation website and associated artworks


A Selfless Society is an online audio-visual artwork, the RAT. systems app uses traditional visualization, Colony Omega Redacted Portraits is a photography project, and This is Nature Now harnesses innovative soft robotics techniques. 


Courtesy of the artist. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary University of London. Collaborators: Dr Chris Faulkes and Marcin Ignac.



A Selfless Society, 2016

Online audio-visual artwork


A Selfless Society is an abstract animation of forms whose shape and behaviour are influenced by the activity patterns of a naked mole-rat colony – the animals are tracked using an RFID (Radio- frequency identification) system to provide this live activity data. Freeman’s interest in these animals stems from their cooperative lifestyle. The colony as a whole has the strongest chance of success, while lone individuals have little chance of survival. Naked mole-rats are ‘eusocial’ like bees, meaning only the queen breeds. What would happen if human society were restructured in this way?


Courtesy of the artist. Collaborator: Marcin Ignac.


This is Nature Now, 2016

Real-time data-driven silicone kinetic sculptures (documentation version);  3 x single channel HD digital video with sound. Duration variable.


This is Nature Now represents live data from a naked mole-rat colony through physical movements of an artificial-material. It explores the body language of objects through techniques in soft robotics. The work asks us to reflect on how specific technologies mediate our experience of the natural world, and how we now encounter nature through our devices and broadcast mechanisms. Can living things be represented through data? If so, what are the traits a non-biological physical object requires to convey this sense of life?


Courtesy of the artist. Collaborator: Professor Kaspar Althoefer.

Colony Omega Redacted Portraits, 2016

24 C-type photographs. 351 x 234mm.


Should data privacy be restricted to humans? RAT.systems involves tracking (but not experimenting on) Colony Omega - a colony of naked mole-rats maintained in an artificial environment designed for behavioural observation. Freeman has blocked out all of their eyes. This humorous act strangely highlights the individuality of each of the naked mole-rats. It also stems from, and refers to, wider and more serious concerns. Poachers are said to be using metadata from tourist’s photographs on safari, or even academic papers, to locate and kill endangered animals. Respecting an animal’s right to privacy may become akin to respecting their right to life. The work re-contextualises more human-centric privacy issues.



Courtesy of the artist. Portraits by Lorna Ellen Faulkes, commissioned by Julie Freeman and Dr. Chris Faulkes.