Tag Archives: media ecology



Growing intelligent beehives is a long term project, from mycelium and recycled waste straight into the final guerilla beehive shape. The purpose is to populate Brussels city with a network of intelligent guerilla beehives. These are beehives that offer shelter to a bee colony ‘in the wild’ – bee populations that are not domesticated but that are monitored from a distance in a non-intrusive way while they are collecting information about the urban environment.
The system is set up as a fully organic, cradle to cradle, circle. If the bees decide to leave the hive in search for another home, the hive (with integrated electronics) will bio-degrade and compost completely. Continue reading



More and more people are living in the cities. We have to search for new modes of sustainable living, new ways of food production. Re-examine the link between the city as consumer and the countryside as provider. In this context, we are researching how to make a network of intensively cultivated city rooftopgardens where we can grow our own food for the neighbourhood.
Besides the food-function, the UrbanArtFarm is set up as our open air laboratorium. In this project, we want to blend the natural and the digital in one and the same nature. We study and document how to set up a middle sized rooftopgarden (± 700 m2), all with recycled materials. Continue reading



During the second workshop week we installed 2 temperature sensors and a humidity sensor in the middle topbars of the brood chamber. There is also a combined temperature/humidity sensor hanging at the backside of the hive. The design of the bee monitoring system is able to log temperature and humidity inside the hive brood nest and measure temperature and humidity in the rooftop garden outside the hive.
All the sensors are connected to an arduino board, which is connected to the internet.
With this set up I can follow at any time the warming up and cooling down in the hive. Temperature and humidity inside and outside the hive are important indicators of hive health.
Some worker bees have a role as ‘heater bees’. They can dislocate their wings from their flight muscles and shiver with those large flight muscles to generate heat. These heater bees are easily identified in images taken by heat sensitive cameras because the temperature of their thorax can reach over 42°C degrees, contrasting with the normal temperature of the brood nest of 35 degrees Celsius. Even when the temperature outside is below freezing, the center of the hive can be 33 degrees.

pix: dead black bees on frames

If the outside temperature falls below 12°C, bees cannot fly and they will be confined to the hive. If the bees either run out of honey or it is so cold that they cannot crawl from the edge of their warm cluster to the honey (below 10 degrees C, they cannot move), they will starve or freeze.
This happened with our first beehive in 2009: a colony of native black bees (with pedigree) did not survive the harsh winter because their food sources were too far away from the bee nucleus. Too far was only 3 frames – but in a very cold winter every centimeter counts.

bees ‘fanning’ at the entrance of the hive, to cool down the temperature

Cooling in the hot summer is just as important. Wax softens if the hive temperature exceeds 35°C. Besides structural problems, this negatively impacts vibration-based communication between bees inside the dark hive. To cool down the hive the water-bees collect water and spread it over the comb. Bees also evaporate heat by mechanically creating air currents inside the hive to cool it down. Fanning bees at the entrance of the hive are performing this task.

Research suggests that temperature of the hive increases immediately before a swarm occurs and drops below ambient temperature at the time of the swarm itself. [paper …]
Humidity inside and outside the hive can influence how quickly the water in nectar is evaporated and transformed into honey. The bees try to maintain an average humidity value of 60% inside. The degree of humidity may also indicate environments that favor fungal growths that can devastate hives. This happens mostly in humid winters – (see chalkbrood).

pix: humidity graph

Graph representing the humidity values in the green monitored beehive over the season 2011-2012.
In the beginning of the graph there is some noise, but from october 2011 we see clearly that the bees maintian a rather constant value of humidity around 55%, there where the outside values are [onderhevig aan] much bigger changes.

pix: temperature graph

Graph representing the temperature values in the green monitored beehive over the season 2011-2012.
There are 2 temperature sensors installed left and right in the same topbar. The highest sensor values are closest to the honeycomb building and to the bee nucleus in winter.

desert numerique 2011

Annemie Maes participates in the workshops, presentations and experiments of the festival Desert Numerique. She will present okno’s OpenGreens project. Desert Numerique is an artistic event gathering media artists, curators, producers, scientists, activists and publics around practices linking art, science and technologies; an invitation to bring digital arts in a unusual place, the village of Saint-Nazaire-le-Deesert (Drome, in France). It aims to transform the village into an electronical oasis, an effervescent laboratory.Desert Numerique combines a summer’s professional network meeting in the countryside and an exhibition made as an extension of the host village itself.
all info: http://desertnumerique.incident.net/2011/

wasteland soundwalk

A soundwalk in Thurn & Taxis + workshop: create your own OpenGreen and connect to the database.

In the morning Jonathan Prior guides us through the sounds of the city during a silent soundwalk on the wasteland of Thurn & Taxis. How does Brussels sound? Can sound create a space? These questions are asked and explained, while we listen to the ecological aspects of public spaces. During this guided tour Jonathan Prior lets us experience the public space in another way. Take your waterproof shoes and your camera to register the sounds as images.
In the afternoon Danielle Roberts and Annemie Maes introduce you to the OpenGreens database. With the image material of the silent soundwalk we ‘recreate’ the wasteland of Thurn & Taxis in the OpenGreens database in a collective way.

We gather at OKNO – Koolmijnenkaai 30/34 – 1080 Brussels at 9am.

ecological restoration, urban nature, and the reclamation of public spaces

Jonathan Prior (University of Edinburgh, Institute of Geography) gives us insight in the ecological restauration of landscapes. The previous decades there has been a slow adoption of ecological restoration principles within the built (urban) environment. During his lecture ‘Ecological restoration, urban nature, and the reclamation of public spaces’ Prior wants to guide us in the methods and underlaying values (esthetic, social and political) of the recovery of damaged ecosystems and habitats.

Ecological restoration is the practice of assisting the recovery of damaged ecosystems, habitats or landscapes, to a point in time before the degradation occurred. Ecological restoration can therefore be conceived of as both a spatial and temporal human intervention within non-human nature.

Since the ‘mainstreaming’ of ecological restoration over the last 30 years or so, there has been a slow adoption of ecological restoration principles within the built (urban) environment. Using examples from Europe and North America, in this presentation I want to reveal the types of values that play a role in the construction of ecological restoration policy in urban environments, including aesthetic, ecological, and social values, as well as the notion of the public good. Further, I will look at how these values – sometimes competing, sometimes harmonious – need to be considered within urban green space projects, so as to ensure that they are socially as well as ecologically sustainable.

The lecture is followed by an introduction to the OpenGreens database, by Danielle Roberts and Annemie Maes.

lectures @ okno, thursday june 16 – 8pm

autonomous robots for okno’s OpenGreen

An experimental and playful hands-on workshop by Ralf Schreiber and Christian Faubel.

…it is a lot of fun to build your own robotic creature. As soon as the circuit starts working the robots begin to sing and jerk – there is always a great Hello.
It’s a magic moment and the constructor’s pride is often mixed with a little fear, that continuing soldering could possibly damage the just created little robot.
Time and again it is amazing to see, that such a wimpy, handcrafted creature can arouse empathy, can even activate a certain care in the builder…. (rs)

The most simple way to create and build “life like” machines or robots is by the use of analogue oscillator circuits. Oscillations can be feed-backed and thus simple interactions will happen and simple neuronal networks behavior can be simulated.
In this workshop we will build different kinds of machines. In combination with tiny motors and loudspeakers (piezos) they will generate smallest movements and soft sounds. All these machines are based on extreme low energetic circuits designs and get powered by the electric energy from tiny solar-panels or wimpy diy batteries.
All the finished machines can be exposed / set free in the garden. Furthermore some “creatures” can be connected or integrated to botanical or fungal organism (the plants resistance/capacity will get an integral part of the oscillating circuits).
For the design and look we will recycle & reuse wimpy stuff and elements direct from the garden: leaves, thin twigs, wax from the bee hives…

honeybatteries and a soundmodule – materials of the OpenGreens

Candlelight robots, a project developed by Christian Faubel.
The project consists of tiny mobile robots based on the suneater-circuit. They can be driven with just the flame of a candlelight. The light of the candle is transformed into electric energy that is stored in a capacitor and then released to a motor, producing movement. Christian will experiment with the workshop participants to make candles that move autonomously with only the energy from the flame. The circuit and motor will be casted in beeswax, with just the motor shaft and and the solar panel sticking out.

double spread OpenGreens workshop@ okno, from 9 to 10 june 2011

désert numérique 2011

Adhérant au concept communautaire mis en place par le projet international « Window Farms », un véritable jardin, recyclé, suspendu et vivant…
Nous créerons ensemble des jardins suspendus. Ce projet DIY, faisant partie du projet en réseau Window Farms, consiste en un jardin hydroponique, très esthétique, et élaboré à partir de matériaux récupérés. L’artiste Kyd Campbell (CA/DE), rejointe par les artistes/écologistes Annemie Maes (BE) et ingenieur Jérôme Lauer (FR/DE), vont collaborer pour construire un jardin suspendu au village de Saint-Nazaire-le-Désert, et offrir plusieurs présentations d’approches créatives et écologiques et vous assisteront pour créer votre propre jardin suspendu.

NOW WHAT – about getting out of here

Nowadays, we are treated to a wealth of information about the current global crises — poverty, environmental destruction and all those finance markets supposedly teetering on the edge of the abyss. Yet the time for far-reaching political change is long overdue. After all, despite the dramatic consequences of a consumerist lifestyle, the goal of non-stop growth continues to be propagated. Natural resources are being wasted as though there were no tomorrow, while the international finance markets seem to operate free of any legal or ethical restraints. Is the public sector today ruled by economic interests and nothing else?
Continue reading

dortmund filmfestival

If we really want to reshape our urban way of life on a sustainable and ecological basis, we will have to take tangible measures. But how and where can we create green oases in the concrete jungles of our towns? On the window ledge, the balcony or the rooftop?

The multimedia artist and activist Annemie Maes will use her workshop to give us some answers and practical tips. She has long been involved in eco-technologies and grass-roots activism and, in 2004, she and Guy van Belle set up OKNO, an artists collective that aims to develop innovative cultural projects linking art and technology. For example: Connected Open Greens – the outskirts of town where culture and nature can come together symbiotically, where regenerative energy technologies meet traditional gardening and where art projects might make new biotopes. The question is this: to what extent can new organisms, new surroundings and new landscapes be generated by merging the artificial with the natural?

[flashvideo filename=http://so-on.be/SO-ON/OpenGreen/dortmund/dortmund.flv height=270 width=448 image=http://so-on.be/SO-ON/OpenGreen/dortmund/dortmund02.jpg /]

OKNO members operate two Open Green Rooftop Gardens in Brussels. They observe and record the growth, flowering and decay of plants as well as providing a habitat for insects and keeping bee colonies. They organise related workshops and an »Adopt a Bee« scheme (a bee hive, to be more precise). Here in Dortmund, Ms Maes will be talking about her Connected Open Greens project, one feature of which is urban bee-keeping. There will also be instructions on how to roll seed bombs, which we will subsequently put to practical effect during a city stroll … and so help Dortmund’s urban bees make more honey.