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The Fly Printer - Extended

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Artist talk / Work-in-progress
What is the purpose of a machine or an artifact, like
the Fly Printer, that is dislocated, that produces
images that have no meaning, no instrumentality,
that depict nothing in the world? The biological and
the cultural are reunited in this apparatus as a
possibility to break through a common way of
depicting the world, trying to find different surfaces
and using strange apparatus to insist in the interstice
of visibility. The Fly Printer is a printing apparatus
in a form of a closed environment that contains a
flock of fruit flies. The flies eat special food that is
prepared for them that is mixed with laser jet printer
inks. The flies digest the food and gradually print
different color dots onto the paper that is placed
under the fly habitat. In the Fly Printer biological
organisms are used for replacing a standard part of
our common printer technology. The work points to
a divide between the engineered and the organic
and shows a human aspiration for control of
information and of biological species. Frustratingly,
the work does not allow control over the flies and
the printing surface; the flies decide whether it is
suitable to print on the paper or on the glass sphere.
In other words the prints produced with this device
are uncontrollable, they are random traces of
biological processes.
The most recent version of the Fly Printer,
currently in progress, incorporates a technological
vision (a camera) and neural network learning
software (DNNs). The purpose of the set-up is to
juxtapose a human perception with a technological
perception through a system that incorporates living
organisms (flies, and human-observers) and
evolving technology (DNNs). The technological
system also addresses an over-interpretation
problem present in the DNNs; evolved images,
which are unrecognizable to humans, are
interpreted with over 99% certainty by the DNNs to
be familiar objects. The work ironically plays on
the over-interpretation of the technological system
and points to how human abilities are considered
the point of reference in technological
developments.
The Fly Printer is an artistic experiment that tests
out a situation where human agency is playing in
the background, as the developer of technology, but
when standing concretely beside the work the only
thing a human can do is to observe the living
organisms producing the dots and technology
independently interpreting the results.
The extended version of the Fly Printer containing
the technological perception and DNNs is a
collaboration between Laura Beloff and Malene
Theres Klaus
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateMay 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

ID: 80995495