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0. introduction okno
OKNO (2004-2012) is an independent artist organization. We like to mention this because it is determining the way we are working at our projects, which tend to be non-hierarchical, collaborative, and multidisciplinary. Situated within media arts, multimedia, communication and information arts, we are involved in a long term investigation. The question for us is a cultural one, with both social and scientific implications.
What is the role of the aesthetical within ecology, and vice versa is there a new ecological designation within the artistic?
As experimental media artists, we emphasize a tool-driven approach, in an environmental sense. And whatever is hard to put under words, we exert ourselves to make an artwork out of, to understand it better, or simply to express it.
As a special implementation of environmental sensing/probing, we worked at a transparant monitoring installation. The Bee Monitoring installation probes deeply within a beehive and displays in realtime the evolution of the life in the hive.
In “The Bee Archives or Stories from the Drying Room” the city honeybees are the main performers. An OpenStructure observation hive displays the organisation of the community and the collective decision making both among bees and artists.
1. city honeybees
Inspired by the flight routes of the bees, and looking at where they are going and what they are bringing back, we are thinking of yet another project.
It is remarkable to see how a bee population functions and evolves, very much in accordance to the human activites we are developing around them: gardening and doing (urban) agriculture.
The production of honey is different related to the flowers we grow, the plants we like, the garbage or pollution we produce. So bees are very responsive to the different biotopes that we share, they are considered to be good bio-indicators. Though we seem to have rather few insight into what constitutes the diversity of our surrounding living place, and that's something we want to research on a deeper level.
In previous projects we developed different tools for identifying the specificity and relatedness of the changing assemblages of plants, animals, insects, reptiles, and related human activities. Adding new sensor networks to our Connected OpenGreen distributed garden database, and gathering the audiovisual data with our annotation database Padma/Pandora, we hope to portray the surround Canal Zone, as it is changing over time into a continuous productive urban landscape (Cpuls). It is a diverse area where a lot of activities, from accidental nature to collective and community gardening and urban agriculture, develop between the industrial buildings, office zones and living areas.
With this new project CORRIDORS, in which city honeybees play the leading role, we want to research how the sustainability of cities can be increased in the future, and how citizens can be actively involved.
2. social sculpture - Gesamtkunstwerk
Concretely, we put forward ecological CORRIDORS in urban environments as a new medium of social sculpture, a Gesamtkunstwerk that relies on the creative participation of many.
Corridors are ephemeral living structures in the form of green spaces connected through animal life (such as bee colonies). They are set up and maintained by urban communities to regenerate areas of the city, particularly areas which are subject to social and urban stress. Corridors are here seen as art works that contribute to social cohesion and sustainability by raising awareness and minimizing resource waste.
Ecological corridors rely partly on methods of urban agriculture, guerilla gardening, ecological management and social anthropology. Corridors can also make good use of avant-garde technologies, so that such projects become experiments on the edges of art, science and technology.
With the “bee-mapping” of the connected biotopes around the Brussels canal into a Corridor, we hope to come to a new but sensitive representation of our own living environment, not only providing insight in the constantly changing conditions we live in, but also bringing forth a new material from which new ecologial artworks can be created, be it installation, performance, media art or literature…
Together, the research becomes a fragmented but growing territory where everyone can connect and contribute to, and where slowly relationships and patterns emerge from. We want to work with creative ways to raise awareness, not only about our shared surroundings, but also about the ways we can spread a change that makes sense with a wider than anthropomorphic view only. In a world we share. Guided by social insects, the bees, following them on their flights across the land and cityscapes we live in.
We see this - in the OKNO tradition - as a multifaceted work made over time by artists, technicians, and scientists together, but also involving an audience, by now skillful with ICT and interested in ecological and urban issues.
3. ICT for the monitoring and mapping of the corridors
The project will develop the ICT components necessary to support the bottom-up emergence of ecological corridors in urban areas.
Several ICT technologies are crucial to achieve such corridors: Embedded systems, novel sensors, low energy computing, and sensor networks are needed for monitoring soil quality, plant growth processes, animal activity, pollution and the movement and interaction of people within the local environment. Mobile communication and geoinformatics are needed for aggregating sensory data and projecting it in real time onto maps. Complex systems analysis, low energy computing, and machine learning are needed for detecting patterns to allow prediction and the shaping of ongoing social and biological processes, and novel user interfaces are needed to make embedded technologies accessible and usable without requiring sophisticated background or training. The project will be highly innovative because it opens up a new application area for a whole range of ICT technologies and because it generates deep challenges that will push the state of the art for each technology as well as their integration into a complex distributed system.
the importance of bees in the corridors
corridors as a social sculpture
corridors as artworks