The Fly Printer by Laura Beloff transforms fruit flies into artists behind pieces that highlight the limits of always making humans the point of reference in technology.

Fruit flies are a very common model organism for experimentation in biotech. Now, a piece of art at the Open Fields exhibition in Riga is inverting the roles to let the flies take over. Laura Beloff, Professor at the University of Copenhagen, is the artist behind this amusing artwork.

The project started in 2014 in collaboration with Maria Antonia González Valerio at Cultivamos Cultura, a residency run by Marta de Menezes, who also has amazing bioart projects representing utopian futures with bacteria or love using her own cells. The first prototype, titled The Fly Printer; Prototype No. 3, consisted of a spherical recipient on top of a blank page in which the flies’ food was mixed with ink. After digesting it, the flies print dots of different colors on the paper.

Fly Printer Prototype No. 3

Fly Printer; Prototype No. 3

The next piece, Fly Printer – Danish Crown, built on this concept and honored the Danish heritage of Laura Beloff by making it resemble the emblematic Danish crown. Four spheres containing a different colored food each were connected with each other to allow the flies to move from one compartment to the next.

The final version, Fly Printer – Extended, developed in collaboration with Malena Klaus, incorporates image recognition artificial intelligence software that identifies what the shapes printed by the flies look like.

Fly Printer - Extended

Fly Printer – Extended

The work shows the human aspiration for control of information and of biological species and ironically plays on the over-interpretation of the technological system.” Malena Klaus

This piece has been exhibited at Hybrid Matters in Finland and is currently at Open Fields in Latvia. All the flies paintings and the AI interpretations, which range from pirates to space shuttles, can be found in the Fruit Fly Printer’s twitter.

In her lab at the University of Copenhagen, Laura is currently working on new art projects at the interface of biology and technology. In Flora Robotica, the artist aims to create symbiotic relationships between plants and robots; the resulting hybrid can “detect the presence of humans and react to preferred areas of relaxing and transit areas”. Meanwhile, Evobliss aims to dictate the artificial evolution of ecosystems using robots.

By mixing elements from such different areas, the artist is exploring how interdisciplinary projects could shape our future while inviting the spectators to reflect on the limits of the status quo.


Featured image by Thithawat.S/shutterstock.com; pictures from Hybrid Matters.


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