SWARM: Science Gallery Melbourne's newest exhibition launched

A molecular visualisation of rhinovirus magnified one million times.
The exhibition features molecular visualisations of the ten most important human viruses, magnified one million times. Rhinovirus is pictured here. Image: Drew Berry and WEHI TV

The next exhibition from Science Gallery Melbourne explores the essence of collective behaviour and asks why we are drawn to be part of a pack?

Part exhibition, part experiment, SWARM is the second exhibition to be launched in Science Gallery Melbourne’s new purpose-built museum space on the corner of Swanston and Grattan Street, at the University of Melbourne.

Curated by Science Gallery Melbourne Director Dr Ryan Jefferies, together with Head of Curatorial Tilly Boleyn, a panel of expert advisors and a curatorial team of young people, SWARM features sixteen large-scale installations from across the globe.

Each explores a range of themes related to collective behaviour – from the pleasures and perils of our increasing daily digital connections, the power that comes with political and social protest, the highly social world of insects, and how artificial intelligence and new technologies are replicating swarming behaviour.

“There are now more than 7.9 billion people across the globe, with most of us living highly urbanised lives in an ever-growing network of cities.  We are also increasingly connected through a technological frenzy of social media and digital interfaces, allowing us to share our lives to hordes of followers, to crowdsource ideas and be part of global political movements,” Dr Jefferies said.

“SWARM brings together a series of works that highlight the way collective social behaviour underlies nearly everything - from insects to molecular movements, and the swarm algorithms that are driving our future lives.  At a time of unprecedented societal upheaval due to the current global viral pandemic, this exhibition explores what is means to be part of a pack, but also asks - is it better to go it alone?” he said.

Highlights include:

Anthropomorphic Machine
World-renowned Australian performance artist STELARC has collaborated with academics from the Faculties of Architecture, Building and Planning, Engineering and Information Technology and Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne to create an eight-metre-high kinetic sculpture that senses the presence of humans.  Using the principles of human body structure this enormous machine reacts in real time to visitors’ gestures and movements.

Virus one million times
Emmy award-winning biomedical animator Drew Berry and WEHI TV have created molecular visualisations of the ten most important human viruses, magnified one million times by the lens of Science Gallery’s glass bricks. Watch as swarms of antibodies attack in a kaleidoscope of colour. Along with Virus a music game by Bj√∂rk and Scott Snibbe Studio.

Scrape Elegy
Created by artist Willoh Weiland together with the Centre for AI and Digital Ethics at the University of Melbourne, this immersive new project lets visitors can take a journey through their own personal data.  Using the power of data matching software, the algorithm builds a dynamic, personalised profile based on what can be found in visitors’ mobile phones.


  • German media artist Ursula Damm’s Drosophila Karaoke Bar invites visitors to sing to fruit flies and watch them respond.
  • UK multi-sensory designers Bompas and Parr have collaborated with Monica Gagliano, an Australian academic specialising in plant intelligence, and the Faculties of Science and Engineering and Information Technology to create Sentient Forest, a series of robot trees that follow visitors around the gallery.
  • Lithuanian artist Julijonas Urbonas’ installation Planet of People presents a speculative planet made entirely from human bodies.
  • And The Egg, a kinetic sound sculpture by Berlin artist Marco Barotti, creates sounds based on real-time data generated by the global population growth measured via the Worldometer.

Science Gallery Melbourne (SGM) is the first and only Australian node in the internationally acclaimed Science Gallery Network, and offers over 3500 sqm of exhibition space, a dedicated teaching learning space in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training, a theatre, an artist residency lab and social spaces, designed to inspire young adults through art, science and innovation

Located on corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets, SGM is a gateway to the University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect innovation precinct, and a major new attraction delivering immersive, interactive exhibitions and events focused on the collision of art and science.

The Science Gallery Network embeds galleries in leading Universities around the world, with proven success at engaging 15-25-year-olds in STEM subjects and pathways – the key being the presentation of immersive and experimental exhibitions that blend scientific theory and new technologies with contemporary themes and creativity.