Audemars Piguet unveiled the results of their first annual Art Commission during Art Basel earlier this month. For the inaugural project, Swiss artist Robin Meier was selected by a jury to develop a piece of work that untangled the intricate patterns of the firefly’s light pulse. 

Working closely with Audemars Piguet and curator Marc-Olivier Wahler, who is heading the project, Meier explored the lighting patterns of fireflies found in remote parts of the world, and analysed them to deduce whether they could be synchronised with external light and sound. The artist worked with researchers and entomologists in Thailand, France, the UK and Japan to learn about the insects, and discovered how to influence their behaviour and light patterns by exposing them to lights that mimic their own. The results of his explorations are gathered in a project titled Synchronicity, shown in a specially developed air-locked tent, which Meier equipped like a ultra high-tech greenhouse. 

A colony of fireflies was flown to Basel from Japan, taking residence inside the tent in the town’s Volkshaus. Visitors were able to explore Meier’s research and thought processes during brief visits to the space, interacting with the fireflies and immersing themselves in their ’world’. Inside, audio and video pulses created a rhythmic beat, accompanied by the sounds of crickets, metronomes, water pumps and the electronic equipment necessary to concoct the ambitious piece of work. Various species of plants, waterfalls and small LED lights dressed the space, semi-recreating the living environment of the insects.

The result was a piece of work both fascinating in its artistic scope and comprising an impressively solid piece of scientific research.