The Fly Printer; Prototype No. 3 by Laura Beloff & María Antonia González Valerio, 2014; glass sphere, yeast + jet printer inks, paper, fruitflies.
The Fly Printer; Prototype No. 3 is a printing apparatus in a form of a closed environment, a glass sphere, 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 glass sphere.
One can claim that the standardization of images, paper and inks in contemporary societies has produced a certain way of seeing. A comparable standardization in biological research can be seen through epistemic artifacts such as model organisms. For example, the fruit fly, Drosophila, is a model organism used in genetic research. The model organisms are used in vivo for research that typically deals with a human, but in which experimentation with a human subject is not allowed. The general expectation is that discoveries and knowledge gained from model organism will provide insight into the workings of other organisms.
Much of the hype with molecular biology in the past decades had a lot to do with model organisms, and the wishful thought that we could decipher the “code of life”. The enthusiasm was so big as to state that what was valid for Drosophila was also valid for the elephant. What has been found nowadays is that this claim is false. So, what is the actual state of model organisms in the lab regarding genetic research? If the complexity of life cannot be narrowed to a certain specimens deliberately chosen for the human convenience to be the model in which genetic research was to be build from, and if this complexity also means that our possibilities to control epistemologically the genomes are very far away if achievable at all, then we have to raise the question about the effectiveness of producing epistemological artifacts, that is, model organisms.
Concerning the Fly Printer, one can ponder over a question: can there be a leap from epistemology to technology? The standardization in biological research can meet the one in technological productions?
The standardization of images and of machines that relate to the production of images implies an alteration of the gaze. The eyes observe what the machine generates as reality, as icon. The homogenous methods of the visualization apparatus represent the flattening of the options to produce images. How many equalitarian apparatus do we have to reproduce the world by ways of similar appearances?
The machines being uniform and the production of images-type teach the eye to adjust itself to what fits inside a frame. The epoch of the ubiquitous screens is also the one of the reduction of the possibilities of perception: one sees the same in the same.
But what is the outcome 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. These images, if they can be called like that, are phantoms, simulacra (Deleuze) fabricated beyond the human manipulation and intention.
In the Fly Printer a standard biological model 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 results from this printer are uncontrollable, the resulting prints are random traces of biological processes.
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.
Through the Fly Printer happens the becoming a colorful dot, what is there to be seen? To be interpreted? This is a disruption of the chances of sense. (Beloff & González Valerio 2014)
*Exhibited during summer 2014 at Cultivamos Cultural space in Sao Luis (PT).
*Exhibited in January 2015 at Odemira (PT) as a part of Sul Sal – exhibition organized and curated by Marta de Menezes.