Ingenious and Fearless Companions

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Ingenious and Fearless Companions

April 1 - June 11


Melissa Grant, Oliver De Peyer, Paul Shepherd, Anna Dumitriu, Alex May, Kira O’ Reilly
1st April – 11th June 2016

BOM is organising the first ever exhibition by the High Altitude Bioprospecting (HAB) science-art collective.


Ingenious and Fearless Companions explores the adventure of curiosity-driven research through a quest to find microscopic life in space. The title is taken from a letter from French poet Victor Hugo to chemist and aeronaut Gaston Tissandier (1869), on the future of ‘air navigation’ to our hybrid ways of working across science and art. It is also a reference to the bacteria that travel into space inside and on the bodies of astronauts and spacecraft, as well as the extremophile bacteria that the HAB team have been seeking in the upper atmosphere.


The HAB collective formed in 2010 when they met through Nesta’s Crucible Labs programme. Initiated by biochemist Dr Melissa Grant from the School of Dentristry at the University of Birmingham, lab robotics researcher Oliver de Preyer and mathematician Paul Shepherd, they have searched for microorganisms adapted to life in space in order to consider their novel uses in biotechnology.


Together the HAB team have developed remotely operated robotic devices to sample the air for such microorganisms, investigating the effects of space travel on bacteria. They have collaborated with NASA and civilian space authority The Rocket Mavericks, to fly the device on weather balloons and rockets into the stratosphere. More recently they have been joined by bio artist Anna Dumitriu and media artist Alex May who are collaborating to produce a series of artworks that re-live the excitement of the original rocket launch in the Nevada Desert, the horror of a failed parachute and the despair of a crushed robot.


The exhibition also incorporates video-mapped archive films and sculpturally altered relics of the original launch, such as weather balloons, environmental samples from the black rock desert and extremophile bacteria.


On the 13th May 2015 the remains of the wrecked robot were autopsied in a unique performance lead by internationally acclaimed performance artist Kira O’Reilly, as part of the Space Biohack weekend.

The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England and the University of Birmingham.

Click for more information on High Altitude Bioprospecting.

Click to explore the work of the Institute of Unnecessary Research.






April 1
June 11
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