Hill Climbing With Random Restarts

2 channel video installation, 180 min loop (2017)
exhibition view, Spor Klübü, Berlin

The installation shows the start and end point of an “induced emigration” of a colony of Temothorax (aka house-hunting) ants filmed in real time. It is a re-staging of a laboratory experiment simulating a natural disaster, in which an ant’s nest is destroyed by removing the roof, forcing the colony to search out and move into a new home. Such experiments are used to study collective decision-making processes and have inspired optimization algorithms.

In preparation for the experiment, each of the tiny ants (1-1.5 mm in size) is marked with acrylic paint allowing them to be viewed and tracked individually. Each video show an ant home made of two glass microscope slides sandwiching a layer of perspex with an oval form cut out of it.

One video shows the ants moving out of their home; the other shows them moving into the new one. The ants take great care that each of them makes it safely into the new home.

Artist talk explaining the intricacies of making the work in collaboration with biologists at Oxford and Mainz Universities