Strange Attractor


Strange Attractor is an ongoing experiment into the intersection of human and insect aesthetics and the role of technology in mediating the interaction between humans and animals. Strange Attractor consists of a modular system of artificial flowers through which the visual preferences of wild butterflies can be explored. Different flower designs are tested by recording how frequently the butterflies visit each design. To be considered successful the designs must simultaneously provoke a human aesthetic aesthetic response and become part of the physical ecosystem of the butterflies. By using flower designs inspired by the visual artwork of famous human artists the project engages the human observer in the biosemiotic relationship between flower and insect. Strange Attractor is a conceptual example of how humans can engage in a process of design incorporating both human and non-human needs and co-existence.


  • Laser cut acrylic “petals”
  • Inkjet printed “petals”
  • Wood/metal support base
  • Fresh fruit or sugar-based nutrient solution
  • Robotic butterfly (optional, requires 120v outlet if indoors)
  • Solar panel (for robotic butterfly, if outdoors)
  • Living flowers native to region
  • Earth/potting material

Technical Requirements

  • Flower plot 4'x4'
  • Periodic maintenance required to refresh food/nutrient solution
  • 120v outlet (only required if indoors)
  • Watering for living flowers dependent on conditions
  • Sunlight or fluorescent lamps (for living flowers)

Exhibition / Press History

Proposed Future Work

  • Automatic feeding system with nutritionally balanced food - entomologist feedback desired - please contact me
  • Computer vision butterfly tracking system for automatic visit counts
  • Algorithmic generation of flower designs using visitation by butterflies for selection feedback
  • Installation in an urban community garden (in progress!)

Other Documentation

Modular Design

Designs Inspired by Famous Human Artists

Do butterflies prefer Van Gogh or Warhol? Why would they have a preference either way? Are there commonalities in a person's appreciation of flowers and a butterfly's?

Van Gogh inspired design Warhol inspired design

Butterfly Release at OOZ Garden

The red seemed popular, with Monarchs leaving and returning to it. The white... The Painted Ladies tended to stay for a shorter period of time at the flowers...


Strange Attractor in Northern California Wildflower Field

Strange Attractor in a wildflower meadow in Northern California.

Yuri's Night at NASA Ames Research Center

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Page St Community Garden in the Lower Haight, San Francisco

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projects/strangeattractor.txt · Last modified: 2013/08/26 12:08 by mangtronix