Category: Fun

Multispecies Salon 3: SWARM in New Orleans November 13-23

Dr. Eben Kirksey, 831.600.5937,
Myrtle Von Damitz lll, 504.908.4741,

October 25, 2010


Multispecies Salon 3: SWARM

Exhibitions to Open in New Orleans November 13, 2010

Art exhibitions centered on the relationship between humans and other creatures, The Multispecies Salon 3: Swarm, will open in the St. Claude Arts District of New Orleans on November 13, 2010 from 6 pm to 10 pm and will run through December 5th.

Spawned by the annual conference of the 2010 American Anthropological Association (AAA), this year convening in New Orleans, the Multispecies Salon will explore relations between humans and other creatures.  Art shows will be installed at three sites in the St. Claude district: The Ironworks, (612 Piety St.), The Front (4100 St. Claude Ave., on November 13th only), and Kawliga Studios (3331 St. Claude Ave.).

Coming together in a collaborative venture from the East Coast, the West Coast and New Orleans, six members of a curatorial swarm—Myrtle Von Damitz III, Marnia Johnston, Amy Jenkins, Nina Nichols, Karen Kern, and Eben Kirksey—have brought together a multitude of creative agents.  Over seventy artists—hailing from New Orleans, the far reaches of the United States, Europe, and Australia—will animate the shows.  A full list of these participants—including internationally acclaimed artists like Kathy High, Adam Zaretsky, and Cornelia Hesse-Honeger—is available online.

The swarm is a network with no center to dictate order.  Swarming is the tactic, rather than the theme, of the Multispecies Salon.  Three interrelated themes—orbiting around human relationships with plants, microbes, and animals—will come together in the Multispecies Salon: “Hope in Blasted Landscapes”, “Edible Companions”, and “Life in the Age of Biotechnology.” Hope in Blasted Landscapes will showcase forms of life that persist in post-industrial sites, in the aftermath of disaster.  Blurring the boundaries between food and art, we will invite gallery visitors to eat Edible Companions—critters whose bios, biographical and political lives, might provoke a bit of indigestion.  Life in the Age of Biotechnology will feature new organisms and machines that have been created by humans or are dependent upon on humans for their very survival.

An opening reception will take place at all three gallery sites on Saturday, November 13, from 6 pm to 10 pm, in conjunction with the Prospect 1.5 biennial and the St. Claude Art Walk.  The Swarm Orbs, spherical robots that embody the tactics of our show, will be on the move outside The Front Gallery among goats from Pretty Doe Dairy, creatures involved in an urban bioremediation project.  Samples from a buffet of edible insects, prepared by Zack Lemann of the Audubon Insectarium, will also be available to visitors.

Multispecies Salon events will continue the following week in association with the American Anthropological Association (AAA) conference as well as the New Orleans Fringe Festival, both from November 17-21.  Internationally renowned anthropologists will give lectures about human relations with other species, free and open to the public, at Kawliga Studios (6:30-7:30 pm, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, November 15-19).

Anthropologists will become embedded art critics at the Multispecies Salon—working alongside the curators to help stage and document the events with a live blog.  Happenings in art worlds will accompany discussions at the AAA conference about the emergence of a new approach to anthropology: multispecies ethnography.  Literally ethno-graphy means “people writing” and conventionally anthropologists have limited their research to human realms.  “Creatures previously appearing on the margins of anthropology — as part of the landscape, as food for humans, as symbols — have been pressed into the foreground in recent ethnographies,” write Eben Kirksey and Stefan Helmreich in the November special issue of Cultural Anthropology, the flagship journal of the discipline.

The Fringe Festival parade will stop for music and refreshments at the Multispecies Salon—arriving at the Ironworks site at 2:45 pm on Saturday, November 20.  A garden party, featuring live music by New Orleans musicians Walt McClements and Alex McMurray follows at the Ironworks that afternoon.  The evening of Saturday, November 20 (6pm-9pm) we will present a free concert by the J.O. Evans ensemble. Cuisine from Louisiana’s swamplands—raccoon, gator, and frog legs—will be on offer from Holly Tamale as concessions throughout the day.

Please visit for a full description and schedule of the Multispecies Salon shows and related activities.

Primary contact:

Dr. Eben Kirksey, 831.600.5937,
Myrtle Von Damitz lll, 504.908.4741,

Attached pictures:
The Paranioa Bugs—a swarm of small clay figurines by Marnia Johnston, a sculptural embodiment of biotechnology that has gone wild—will populate the Kawliga Studios (3331 St. Claude Ave).

The Swarm Orbs—an interactive group of kinetic sculptures that cost $50,000 to build—will make their debut in New Orleans at the Front Gallery (4100 St. Claude Ave.) on November 13th.  They will then visit the New Orleans Marriot for the American Anthropological Association conference.

Thneeds Re-seed is a sculptural remediation by Deanna Pindell—a series of small felted habitats, for Bryum argenteum (Silvery Bryum) moss that will be on display at The Ironworks, (612 Piety St.).  As the “first responder” in healing deforested areas, these art objects will help mosses establish basic support systems for the diverse species necessary for the restoration of devastated woodlands.  The original Thneeds were a commodity in Dr Seuss’s famous children’s book, The Lorax.

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SWARM is going to Techkriti 2010

SWARM is going to IIT Kanpur for Techkriti 2010. SWARM will be represented by Dr. Jonathan Foote, Lee Sonko, Marnia Johnston and Niladri Bora. Techkriti is from Feb 11th – 14th February. We will be doing an 1 hr presentation on SWARM and Machine and Fire Art Culture in the Bay Area and will be rolling the orbs around the campus for general coolness. Watch this space for sticker announcements and other news.

SWARM on its way to Burning Man

An email from Michael posted to the SWARM mailing list earlier today


the truck will be on the road in a few minutes!  Congratulations on all your hard work; we have six working orbs, four fully outfitted for autonomy, two autonomous sequences which can be activated directly by joystick, and a good start at the mother node integration which we can build on at the playa!

You rock, swarm rocks, and open your minds to where we can go from here….

Sexy Spherical Stickers

The very cool folks at printed up our most recent sticker design. They look fantastic! Thank you Stickergiant!

New SWARM Stickers

New SWARM Stickers

They even blogged about our project, :-)

The next time you see a menacing orbular robot bearing down on your position, ask us for a sticker! It will show your (hopefully!) undying support for our new robotic overlords.

Yuri’s Night Rocked

We brought the orbs out to Yuri’s Night.

People really liked them.

Read about it in Engadget, CNet and Laughing Squid. :-)

Upcoming Orb Rolls

I know we haven’t been keeping you peeps updated nearly enough. Let me make it up to you… we’re going to (at least) THREE shindigs soon!

First up, we’re going to Yuri’s Night at NASA Ames ( Saturday April 12th from 2pm-2am!! They’re so excited to see us that we even got nice billing on some recent invitation emails. Groovy!

Next… we’re performing at this little music festival thing in SoCal. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called Coachella. Yessire! That’s right, 6 shiny metal orbs will be bounding around at the Coachella Music Festival ( Friday April 25th-27th! And us swarm-herders get to rub elbows with a bevy of music and art greats!

There’s talk about the orbs rolling to other festivals but it hasn’t been totally lined up yet so I don’t want to set the bar too too high. :-)

If SoCal is too far to go to catch orby delights, you’ll ALSO find us at Maker Faire ( Saturday May 3-4 in San Mateo.

Keep em rollin’!
Lee for SWARM

Yuri’s Night

From Coreyfro:

While NASA is still bragging about teleoperated robots such as DEXTRE, DARPA continues to push the boundaries on autonomous robotics.

That’s because NASA nerds (or, well, two of us here at Ames, and technically, I’m a contractor) make autonomous robots for fun in our free time!

Auto choreographing, music composing, and light show generating orbs of gleaming aluminum!

Come see Orb Swarm at Yuri’s Night!

Legs? PFT! Legs are SOOOOO Precambrian era!

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SWARM Glamour Shots

Here’s some SWARM Glamour Shots that Mark Alexander shot. It’s mid-August at the Box Shop


More SWARMy goodness on the way

The machine art community in the Bay Area is one of the most vibrant scenes in the world. We’ve benefited enormously from our talented friends and colleagues in the area. Now it’s time to give back: we will be appearing on two consecutive nights at the SomArts gallery, to benefit two very worthy causes. Here’s the scoop:

Who: Those mavens of lipstick and accelerants, The Flaming Lotus Girls

What: A Gallery Show Fundraiser for the FLG’s!

When: Friday, November 30th, 2007, 7pm-1am

Where: Somarts Gallery 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco

Why: Because YOU want to see more super giant fire art!

Come join the hot ladies (and gentlemen) of the world-famous Flaming
Lotus Girls fire art group for an evening of art, flame and fabulous

Over 40 different photographers and a handful of local artists have
donated their art for a silent auction benefiting the FLG’s, so they
can continue their quest for world domination through stainless steel
and kerosene.

The rest of the world deserves to see The Serpent Mother in all of her
168-foot majesty. Come enjoy the all the art and make this and other
amazing projects possible!

See more at

And also this the very next night:

The Blue & Green Ball – fundraiser for Todd Blair
Saturday, Dec 1st
SoMarts Gallery
934 Brannan Street
8pm – 1am

Todd Blair is an artist extraordinaire, producer, curator and teacher
at California College of the Arts who needs your help. Todd was
injured in a tragic forklift accident in September at an arts festival
in Amsterdam where he was working as part of the Survival Research
Labs team. His condition remains serious and his recovery long. Todd
is still in recovery at a hospital in Amsterdam.

The “Blue & Green Ball” fundraiser for Todd will be held Saturday,
December 1st at SomArts Gallery, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco,
CA. The event will take place from 8pm – 1am, entry fee is $10.

Entertainment will include DJ Vordo, Gibson Pearl Bellydancing, Art by
the Flaming Lotus Girls, Electromechanical, robotic, and interactive
art and more! There will also be a Live Auction of selected Fine Art,
Talent, and Collectibles. As part of this event, there will be a Shopping
Bazaar- including lots of unique crafts and art. Food and cocktails will
also be available.

Event website:

SWARM at the FLG Fundraiser

A little too early to confirm, but there are rumors of a serendipitous SWARM at the Flaming Lotus Girls fundraiser. Should be a great time for a good cause, so see you there!
Flaming Lotus Girls fundraiser

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