AnneMarie Maes is an artist who has been studying the close interactions and co-evolutions within urban ecosystems. Her research practice combines art and science, with a keen interest in DIY technologies and biotechnology. She works with a range of biological, digital and traditional media, including live organisms. Her artistic research is materialised in techno-organic objects that are inspired by factual/fictional stories; in artefacts that are a combination of digital fabrication and craftsmanship; in installations that reflect both the problem and the (possible) solution, in multispecies collaborations, in polymorphic forms and models created by eco-data. On the rooftop of her studio in Brussels (BE) she has created an open-air lab and experimental garden where she studies the processes that nature employs to create form. Her research provides an ongoing source of inspiration for her artworks. The Bee Agency as well as the Laboratory for Form and Matter -in which she experiments with bacteria and living textiles – provide a framework that has inspired a wide range of installations, sculptures, photography works, objects and books – all at the intersection of art, science and technology. In 2017, she received an Honorary Mention in the Hybrid Art category at Ars Electronica for the Intelligent Guerrilla Beehive project.
It is by now well accepted that the ecosystem that sustains our human life is under great threat. One of the threats is the survival of the honeybee on which we crucially depend for pollination. My long-term Intelligent Beehive project researches sustainable solutions on the edge of art and science. Its goal is a double one. The inside of this bespoke beehive [Fig.1] offers a safe refuge tailored to the needs of a honeybee colony as if they were living in the wild. A co-habitation with symbiotic bacteria has a positive influence on their immune system. The outside of the hive is a biosensor that interacts with the environment. A bacterial biofilm measures the pollution of the foraging fields around the beehive by changing color when a specific threshold of fine dust is passed, because the bacteria change their internal (and hence external) state based on the degrees of atmospheric pollution that causes them stress [Fig.2]. The bacterial shield will thus reflect the information about the state of the environment, for example by changes in light, color or texture, so that the cover shield becomes a ‘sensorial skin’.