Fallen Angel


Fallen Angel is an installation by Alex May and Anna Dumitriu created for the Ingenious and Fearless Companions exhibition held at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) in 2016. Fallen Angel is comprised of a group of weather balloons and a parachute used to slow the descent of a rocket. Onto the balloons is video projection mapped the original footage from the High Altitude Bioprospecting rocket launch synchronised with the audio recordings of the team as they celebrate the successful launch of the device and the dawning horror that it is returning to Earth without its parachute opening.

Fallen Angel

Melissa Grant, Oliver De Peyer, Paul Shepherd, Anna Dumitriu, Alex May, Kira O’Reilly
1st April – 11th June 2016

Birmingham Open Media (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.

Click for more information on High Altitude Bioprospecting.