Ingenious & Fearless Companions (April 1 – June 11, 2016)




Melissa Grant (University of Birmingham), 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. The 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 bioartist 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.

The remains of the wrecked robot will be autopsied in a unique performance lead by internationally acclaimed performance artist Kira O’Reilly, and the exhibition will be accompanied by Space Biohack weekend from 13 – 15 May 2016.

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


Live Robot Autopsy Performance by Kira O’Reilly
Friday 13 May 7pm (doors open 6.30pm)
Internationally renowned artist Kira O’Reilly performs a live autopsy on the HAB’s robot that was launched into space in 2010, as it is dissected and examined in a striking performance fusing art and science.

Space Biohack
Saturday 14 May 10am – 8pm
Join scientists and artists from the High Altitude Bioprospecting team alongside astrobiologists in the first ever space biohack.

Learn how to sample for bacteria and other living organisms in extreme environments. Take part in a search for microscopic extraterrestrial life and learn how studying astrobiology could lead to novel biotechnologies.

Suitable for adults and over 14s. Tickets on sale soon.

For more information on Ingenious and Fearless Companions click here


Supported by Arts Council England and the University of Birmingham