Time-lapse video of an ant colony eating a scanner, captured with the scanner in question

François Vautier infested his flatbed scanner with an ant-colony and scanned the burgeoning hive-organism every week for five years, producing a beautiful, stylized stop-motion record of the ants' slow consumption of his electronics.

Five years ago, I installed an ant colony inside my old scanner that allowed me to scan in high definition this ever evolving microcosm (animal, vegetable and mineral). The resulting clip is a close-up examination of how these tiny beings live in this unique ant farm. I observed how decay and corrosion slowly but surely invaded the internal organs of the scanner. Nature gradually takes hold of this completely synthetic environment.

ANTS in my scanner > a five years time-lapse! (via Kottke)


  1. What kind of witchery is this? I’ve never had a scanner last more than two years, and mine are completely ant-free.

  2. I kind of doubt that the electronics you’re seeing there are from a scanner.  I see a  74 logic and some PCBs that don’t look like production run boards.

     Looks to me like he put a discarded electronics project  and an ant colony in a clear box and took pictures of it.

    1. Yeah, this is some neat art, but I don’t think a scanner or five years was involved.

      Also, I think this has been here before, with the same verdict.

    2. The board looks professional enough, all joints clean, holes neat, edge connectors plated, some sort of stamped steel mechanical reinforcement riveted in place. It does, though, look like it has been lurking in a cardcage somewhere for two decades. 
      A veritable forest of DIP logic, and not an smd in sight…

      1. Agreed.  SMC (Surface Mount Chips) are recent.  In the ‘good ole days’, all the boards used DIPs (Dual In-line Package).

    1. Strictly speaking, the cool kid, singular, was rocking a scanner in 1957. It wasn’t exactly a cheapy flatbed, though… 

  3. fake + weaksauce
    doesnt matter if its art or not, description is lying ergo whole thing is bogus
    one of the pcbs (there are few stacked) looks like its from very old MFM harddrive

  4. What I’d like to know is, how could a scanner scan itself WHILE INFESTED? All that nature can’t be good for it.

    1. Electronics can be surprisingly tough, if certain conditions are met…
      If there are high voltages(cold cathod backlight inverters, say, or even +12 power busses, a moisture or contaminant induced bridge to some delicate little flower of a low voltage bit of silicon logic can kill the whole thing good and dead.

      If you can avoid that, though, chip packaging components are almost alarmingly resistant to environmental meddling(the classic purple ceramic material will probably be used as currency by the mutant cockroach men after WW3, and even the plastic packages will stand up to almost anything save mechanical violence or hot nitric acid) and both copper and tin/lead, even if not protected by a conformal coating, tend to patinate, which protects the interior material for a fair while…

  5. Unfortunately it seems like the lie is necessary to provide an underlying story for the piece. If you just present it as, “I filmed a bunch of ants in a box full of electronic crap,” then it suffers as most art pieces do from everybody wondering what the point is. On the other hand since it is a pretty obvious lie, when deconstructed, it might qualify for artistic license for the sake of the deal… willing suspension of disbelief… or whatever the hell you call that.

    1. I see what you mean but it’s still BS, and I disagree that it wouldn’t have worked without the lie.

      He could have presented this with minimal commentary (and no outright lies) and it would have been cool – because it’s a cool video as is! (though I would exclude the random numbers overlain).

      Without the obvious lie, it would not have prompted all these negative comments. Instead we’d be arguing about what it is exactly that we’re seeing, just like we are now but in a positive way!

  6. I was skeptical; after reading the comments, I’m sure it’s as fake as all hell.  and apparently, there’s some kinda cut-up poetry inserted?  pic related.

  7. It wasn’t scanned with the scanner in question. Not because the electronics look too old, but because a scanner looks outside its own box, not inside. If you put a mirror on the bed, that wouldn’t work either because the scanner would just capture its own light source and scanning head, you’d see nothing of the scanner internals. I believe the artist built an ant farm using the glass of the scanner as one wall, and threw in some electronic junk.

  8. The obvious lie, and the geeky ant-hive-defense reactions, are part of the art.
    Maybe not intended, but it’s there, for me at least :)

  9. The whole thing is a giant AfterEffects job. Look at the “PCB board” numbers around 1:00 in. They are *over* the supposed rust and decay, and they don’t move exactly in sync with the camera pan. Seems like a massive troll which BB got suckered into.

  10. maybe the real art is the art of the troll in the description the artist used to rile up all the comments?

    1. If there is art is provoking people to call you out on an obvious lie, does that mean all politicians are some kind of Rembrandt?

  11. Magnificent colors!  But I need more info about the project.    Ants in a scanner, right?  So where does the water, soil and everything else come from?  It sounds as if the author implies that the ants were eating and living on the electronic components. What did I miss here?

    1.  He put all that stuff in there. Its entirely a fabrication.

      The interesting thing about this is that it would be possible to do it for real, with a bit of mechanical ingenuity. But conceptual artists don’t tend to be that sort of person.

  12. To be fair, the post never claims that the images were captured by the actual scanner being overtaken. The confusion is that the author used the term “allowed me to scan in high definition”. Might of been more accurate to say “capture in high definition”, presumably by shooting through the glass of the scanner box. I’m not getting into whether the guts are scanner parts or not. 

    The orange numbers are obviously post-capture effects. I think there is quite a bit of that going on. The flashing lights and simulated scan-light are on a very different time line to the time-lapse photographs.As for the source of the organic matter and stuff, it may be that he sat the scanner on a box of soil of (and maybe punched some holes in the bottom of the scanner)  that the ants then carried into the guts of the scanner. 

  13. Interesting that the comments on Vimeo are 100% supportive of this “awesome” artwork (probably a lot of artists), and here they are almost 100% negative screaming “fake”.

    btw, stop it at 0:21 and you’ll see a circuit board completely bare, with SN74LS299N parts. That is a single 8-bit shift register. You would never build a scanner using discrete chips like that. That is a circuit board he found at a junk pile at a swap meet, removed from ancient military hardware from the early 1970s.

    There is also a single frame a bit later that has 4 pieces of “magnetic poetry” that says “behind & next street”, which might be some secret coded message. I’m wondering if the whole thing isn’t a secret code. Whatever it is, it is not what it claims to be.

  14. I think when he/she says “in” he means “on”, or on the inside of the glass.

    Not actually a lie, per-SE, but not clearly explained, and further misrepresented by the use of a mirror (to reflect the light) and old circuitry in the farm. The write up here further sealed the deal.

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