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Invisible cartographies

Robotícula (Ana Laura Cantera & Demian Ferrari)

In the actual Anthropocene Age, humanity has become the dominant factor in the ecological balance of the planet. Humans are changing their environment very fast because of their economic interests and society doesn't know the environmental conditions where they live. The project aims to visualize the invisible information about what we breathe in the atmosphere.  

The artwork is a robotic device controlled by a fungus to visualize the quality of air through drifts in public space. It allows us to know invisible information we could not access without technology.  The biorobot, called Life Guardian, was created as a new species in this Anthropocene Age proposing a non-anthropocentric  future.  It is a metaphoric way to make human activity visible, exploring natural resources and visualizing different aspects which are very important to take care to live in a better world. The robot was made of a mechanical part and a living one (a mushroom). The biotic part was constituted as the brain of the robot guiding its movements and changing its behavior for seeking better environmental conditions.  It can be thought as a hybrid organism born in these new ages of naturalization and increase of new media and bio-machines.  It has different sensors to measure the external conditions where it transits (temperature, humidity and types and quantity of gasses in the atmosphere). On the other hand, it has internal sensors inside the capsule where the mushroom inhabits, in order to know its conditions (humidity and color sensor to check the wellness of the fungus). The biorobot walks on territory according to environmental conditions, showing the information it collects in a little screen that it has in the behind part of its frame. Also, it saves this invisible data on a SD card with the position where it is collected using the GPS device, which allows to make maps of air quality after the tracks.  When the fungus finds the ideal conditions or the nearest ones it sends a signal to a microcontroller to stop and to open the capsule for breathing (mushrooms need oxygen and release CO2).


The project was developed in Murum Sum, Mongolia, as part of the LAM 360° Land Art Mongolia Biennial. Although the steppe where it was performed appeared to be very clean, the robot detected a big percentage of CO2 presumably, because of the development of cattle raising. Life Guardian served as an information interface to know the air we breathed in this region that we would not be able to appreciate without technology. The project pretends to invert and dismantle the usual idea of machines which control living beings. Instead of that, it is the fungus who manages the human device for its well-being.

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