kirsty boyle :: robotics artist

FUDE 4 bats

In November 2010 the Artlab team participated in a creative production residency in Sydney at Artspace, themed around ‘the Bat/Human Problem’.  The original Bat/Human Problem briefing paper, states:

The Big Issue:
Today’s ecological crisis reflects a broad range of cultural decisions humanity have historically made. Whilst we have chosen to focus upon the Bat/Human problem – just one of many pressing examples of human versus animal clashes in Australia – exacerbated by massive habitat loss and human induced changing climates . These clashes stem from decisions we have long made about the relative importance and use value of our ‘resources’ based upon a model that often sees humans as the peak of a triangle of power and dominion rather than but one part of a complex ecological web. So – the Bat/Human problem does not lie in some separate sphere from ourselves (i.e. ‘the environment’) – but it is at its core a cultural problem – because the Bat/Human problem is a ‘problem of us’.

What’s Hurting:
The touchstone issue that we have chosen to base our creative processes around in Sydney is the long-running attempt to remove a large colony of Grey Headed Flying Foxes (‘fruit bats’) from the Sydney Botanical Gardens (located adjacent to the Opera House).”

The first recorded evidence of Flying Foxes by the people who traveled on the HMAS Endeavour is recorded in Joseph Banks diary on 24 June 1770 that: “A seaman who had been out in the woods brought home the description of an animal he had seen composed in so seamanlike a stile that I cannot help mentioning it: it was (says he) about as large and much like a one gallon cagg, as black as the Devil and had 2 horns on its head, it went but slowly but I dard not touch it.”

In preparation for the residency Artlab team members prepared ‘prescriptions’ to explore ways to alleviate and address the many issues surrounding the relocation of the Flying Fox colony.

My approach involved identifing ‘symptoms’: in this case the damage that the colony was enacting on the trees in the Botanical Gardens was identified as the primary reason used to justify the relocation.

I therefore devised a series of experimental temporary artificial housing roosts for the bats that questioned how to provide housing for the Flying Foxes which would minimise damage to the trees and also encourage native regeneration of surrounding vegetation.

Initial inspiration was found in the artwork of Lin Onus – ‘Fruit Bats’ (1991) depicting Flying Foxes roosting on a hills hoist clothes line. The imagery of the hills hoist is a nationally recognised icon , which further guided my decision to develop the roost in this style.

The concept was designed as a temporary structure consisting of a series of stacked levels of hills hoist lines, allowing undergrowth and vegetation to grow and eventually overtake the framework, whereby the framework could then be removed and repurposed at another location to continue the process.

I initially called the series of bat roost designs ‘FUDE 4 bats’ – the acronym FUDE evolved from discussions surrounding a need for ‘Future Urban Design Ecology’. I have since questioned this position and wonder if instead FUBE – ‘Future Urban Building Ecology’ is more appropriate, in relation to Fuller & Haque’s Urban Versioning System v1.0 approach.

Subsequent to presenting the ‘hills hoist’ design I discovered within the context of the relocation of a colony of flying foxes from the Melbourne Botanic Gardens that my approach also has scientific validity. This is based on scientific data collected and advisory in relation to artificial housing solutions which were described as:
“engineered structures with multiple arms and cables, similar to a multistorey hills hoist clothesline.”

In a broader sense I now can also locate my work in an international context emerging which moves towards more tightly integrating ecology and urban habitat.

Footage captured my physical process building a series of designs I created for the FUDE 4 Bats project: