Rodent Activity Transmission (RAT) systems

Julie Freeman 2016 - ongoing

Freeman’s multi-part work uses real-time data to allow us a peek into the lives of a colony of electronically tagged naked mole-rats. It embodies a broad series of unconventional approaches to working with data to evidence different structures and forms of life. It also pushes the possibilities of data into new artistic territory.

A Selfless Society 2016
Data visualisation website and associated artworks
A Selfless Society is an abstract animation of forms whose shape and behaviour are influenced by the activity patterns of a naked mole-rat colony – the animals are tracked using an RFID (Radiofrequency identification) system to provide this live activity data. Freeman’s interest in these animals stems from their cooperative lifestyle. The colony as a whole has the strongest chance of success, while lone individuals have little chance of survival. Naked mole-rats are ‘eusocial’ like bees, meaning only the queen breeds. What would happen if human society were restructured in this way? Would non-breeding females be considered selfish or selfless? How would political, economic and other systems be re-routed to serve the interests of the whole? What would become of the individual?

Collaborator: Marcin Ignac

This is Nature Now 2016
Real-time data-driven silicone kinetic sculptures (documentation version); 3 x single channel HD digital video with sound. Duration variable
This is Nature Now represents live data from a naked mole-rat colony through physical movements of an artificial-material. It explores the body language of objects through techniques in soft robotics. The work asks us to reflect on how specific technologies mediate our experience of the natural world, and how we now encounter nature through our devices and broadcast mechanisms. Can living things be represented through data? If so, what are the traits a non-biological physical object requires to convey this sense of life?

Collaborator: Professor Kaspar Althoefer

Colony Omega Redacted Portraits (2016)
24 C-type photographs. 351 x 234mm
Should data privacy be restricted to humans? involves tracking (but not experimenting on) Colony Omega – a colony of naked mole-rats maintained in an artificial environment designed for behavioural observation. Freeman has blocked out all of their eyes. This humorous act strangely highlights the individuality of each of the naked mole-rats. It also stems from, and refers to, wider and more serious concerns. Poachers are said to be using metadata from tourist’s photographs on safari, or even academic papers, to locate and kill endangered animals. Respecting an animal’s right to privacy may become akin to respecting their right to life. The work re-contextualises more human-centric privacy issues.

Portraits by Lorna Ellen Faulkes, commissioned by Julie Freeman and Dr. Chris Faulkes


Data visualisation website and associated artworks. Dimensions variable


The New Observatory
June 2017 – October 2017 at FACT, Liverpool

Data Types

Biological, Live, Metadata, Real-time, Shared, Temporal

About the Artist

Through her practice Julie Freeman translates complex processes and data from natural sources into kinetic sculptures, physical objects, images, sound compositions, animations, VR & AR,  questioning the use of data and digital technology in how we…
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