Let’s say you’re an artist who wants to explore the effects of global warming on the Arctic environment. The first idea that would spring to mind is to recreate a centuries-old circus sideshow act, right? OK, it might not have been the first idea, but Ars Bioarctica, a group of artists and scientists in Finland, ran with it, using water fleas, or daphnia, to create the Water Flea Circus, a multi-media spectacle starring translucent planktonic crustaceans.
The first Water Flea Circus, in 2009, was a fairly simple show, mainly projected images of live water fleas doing tricks (actually, just being themselves, flipping around and waving their legs) to musical accompaniment. Water Flea Circus 2010 was much more elaborate, with 10 live performances featuring live projections as well as performers dressed as water fleas and researchers. Yeah, just watch the video.
Ars Bioarctica, a long term art/science initiative with a focus on the Arctic environment, was started in 2008 in Finland by the Finnish Bioart Society and the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station of the University of Helsinki. Its aim is to support joint projects between artists and scientists to develop new kinds of scientific and artistic thinking, specifically on the relationship of man and nature. If you think this sounds like the best thing ever, they have a residency program that will allow you to go to sub-Arctic Lapland to hang out with scientists and make art.