Invited Artist:

AnneMarie Maes [Be]


The Sensorial Skin for an Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is a bio-art installation. It is a speculative research project that combines in a radical way smart materials, biomimetic forms and biotechnology.

The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is mobile shelter for swarming honeybees. The concept is inspired by the intelligence, complexity and self- organisation of bee colonies as Super Organisms. This radical new beehive is a sensing device, monitoring the health status of the environment and that of the bees living inside the hive. Colonies of color-changing bacteria, living on the skin of the hive, act as bio-sensors.

They send out warnings at high environmental pollution by changing their color and thus ‘tattooing’ the beehive’s skin.

The research and development of the device have been a starting point for exploring possible futures through artistic experiments on materials science and biotechnology. The ‘Sensorial Skins’ smart fabrics are grown by micro-organisms, They are augmented with biological and electronic elements for sensing and actuating, for computation and for communication. This radically new device tackles a domain where human and non-human actors collaborate to maintain the resilience of an ecosystem in decline.

AnneMarie Maes is an artist and a researcher. Her Laboratory for Form and Matter is an open environment for experimentation, a space for contradiction, criticism and evaluation. Her work is structured through long term projects, and her research is often carried out in collaboration with scientists. In her studio she studies the processes by which Nature creates form. She creates art works in many different media: installations and sculptures, video, photographs and objects ; and works with a range of biological, digital and traditional media, including live organisms. In many of her works she implements the extraordinary possibilities of information-, communication- and bio- technologies in order to connect us back to nature.

Maes, an accomplished beekeeper and herbalist, designed and fabricated various experimental observation beehives, including the Transparent Beehive (2011-2013), the Sound Beehive (2014-2015) and the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive (2015-ongoing).

She also started to experiment intensely with new organic materials created through growth processes involving bacteria and yeast. A steady stream of artworks has come from these experimental hives and bee colonies. They all add up to a Wunderkammer.

Each object or image has an intriguing story to tell. It makes us see Nature in a new light. Maes’ is carefully observing Nature using her artistic eye to highlight the remarkable forms and structures found there and performing experiments – mostly without complex scientific equipment – that bring out the beauty and sophistication of the natural world.

Research for the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive project has recently opened a new chapter in her work.

Combining 3d-printing and computer-programmed fabrication with traditional craftmanship and biotechnology, Maes discovered a new medium for painting and sculpting. She has no absolute control over the outcome but puts biological processes in motion that create intriguing sensorial surfaces. The result has the esthetic qualities of abstract art works but invokes at the same time the spirit of Arte Povera by its appropriation of unconventional materials, its emphasis on process, its use of additional senses like smell and tactile sensing, and its attempt to move away from the overly rational, mechanistic attitudes that dominate our world.


Produced in 2017 by Studio AnneMarie Maes, in collaboration with the Urban Bee Laboratory (Brussels), the Bio HackLab (Barcelona) and FabTextiles (Barcelona). The production was supported by JRC/EU and FabLab BCN (Made@EU).


Anne Marie Maes is a founding artist and director of several non-profit art collectives as Looking Glass, So-on and Okno. She has for decades been a recognized leader pioneering art-science projects in Belgium, using highly original ways to bring out hidden structures in nature by constructing original bio-technological methods to probe the living world and by translating that in artistic creations.

She has a strong international profile, having exhibited (amongst others) at Bozar in Brussels, Koç University Gallery in Istanbul, Borges Center in Buenos Aires, Arsenals Museum in Riga, Skolska Gallery in Prague, the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, the Designmuseum in Mons, the Wis-senschaftskolleg in Berlin, Museum de Domeinen in Sittard, Grey Area Gallery in Korcula, the Science and Technology museum in Milano.

In 2017 she was awarded a Honorary Mention in the Hybrid Art category at Ars Electronica, for the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive project.



Mixed media installation mixing bioresearch with digital and craft techniques ; artworks realized with biochemistry and biotechnology, micro-organisms, organic matter and electronics.

The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive project is a long term project on the interstiches of art and science.

Research was carried out for more than 2 years and includes collaborations with the university VUB Brussels (chemical engineering lab, Scanning Electron Microscopy) and with the Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona (complex systems laboratory) as well as collaboration with the Bio Hack Lab of Barcelona, the Fab Lab of Barcelona and the Urban Bee Lab in Brussels. Research was done in the domains of materials science, biotechnology and biochemistry but as well in digital fabrication and traditional crafmanship techniques.

The prototype of the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is developed with a combination of digital techniques (laser cutting, CNC milling, 3D-printing), craftmanship techniques (sculpture, molding & casting), biotechnology (Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria as bio sensors), bio chemistry (bioplastics, cellulose fabrics grown by Acetobacter xylinum bacteria and yeast cells) and DIY electronics (Raspberry Pi, Ph sensor, T°sensor, ultrasound sensor, solarpanels, IR photography, microphones as sensors).

A lot of attention was given to the different materials used for the prototype and for the experiments.

All materials are organic and biodegradable. An important part of the project was to develop new materials grown by nature, for ex. the cellulose skin which is a biopolymere grown by living organisms, or chitine as a new material for 3D-printing.

The formal and material design of the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is inspired by nature.

The content responds to the nest-needs of a bee colony living in the wild. The mobile architecture makes it easily deployable on different spots in public space, hence its name:  the Guerilla Beehive. The beehive has been enhanced with a biosensor network in order to monitor the health of the colony. It is made out of smart organic materials with usefull properties in respect to temperature fluctuation, humidity and ventilation.

The hive has a high tactile potential. All materials are biodegradable. It is a cradle to cradle design.

The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive-prototype is a proof of concept. Together with the additional experiments (sensor tracking of the growth of a microbial skin and rotative skin growing) it demonstrates clearly how (engineered) bacteria can sense environmental pollution and how they make the degree of pullution visible by changing color.


– Première of the project at Resonances II (art/science) festival in Ispra, Italy (Sept. 2017)
– The project got an honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica 2017, cat. Hybrid Art.
It was exhibited at the CyberArts Exhibition in the OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria (Sept. 2017)
– The project travelled with the Resonances II festival to the Science and Technology Museum in Milano, Italy (Sept./Oct. 2017)
– Part of the project was exhibited at the Tendencies #02 exhibition in Bozar Brussels (BEAF 2017)
Resonances II, JRC/EU campus, Ispra (Italy)
CyberArts exhibition 2017, OK Center for Contemporary Arts, Ars Electronica Linz (Austria)
Resonances II, Science and Technology Museum, Milano (Italy)
Tendencies, Bozar Brussels (Belgium),
Nova XX, Halles St. Gery Brussels (Belgium)


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