Pigeon d'Or, 2010
Tuur Van Balen
Mixed media installation (bespoke bacteria, acrylic objects, c-type print photographs, video)
Tuur Van Balen_web
Tuur Van Balen (BE). Pigeon d'Or, 2010. Mixed media installation. 2010 Photo by Pieter Baert

The city is a vast and incredibly complex metabolism in which the human species is the tiniest of fractions; tiny and yet intrinsically linked into an organic embroidery beyond our understanding. It is within this complex fabric that (future) bio-technologies will end up. Pigeon d’Or proposes the use of feral pigeons as a platform and interface for synthetic biology in an urban environment by attempting to make a pigeon defecate soap. A special bacterium is designed and created that, when fed to pigeons, could turn faeces into detergent and is as harmless to pigeons as yoghurt is to humans.

Credits: In collaboration with James Chappell at the Centre for Synthetic Biology, Imperial College London. Thanks to Pieter Baert, Jan Boelen, Rob Culverhouse, Simon Delobel, Cate Edgar, Toby Hadden, Keith Plastow, Albert Stratton, Kasper Van Rompay & Joep Verburg. Supported by the Flemish Authorities.


Tuur Van Balen (b. 1981, Leuven, Germany) uses design to explore the political implications of emerging technologies. Through designing and experimenting with new interactions, he constructs thought-provoking new realities. Both the process of creating these objects and the interventions and narratives as the resulting physical presence aim to confuse, question and confront different publics with the possible (and impossible) roles of technologies in our everyday lives. Since 2008, Tuur has been working on bringing design into the world of synthetic biology and vice versa. His works have been presented in various contemporary art exhibitions and festivals, such as Beijing International Design Triennial (the National Museum of China, Beijing), Design Directors (Vlaanderen Gallery, Brussels), Synth-ethic (the Natural History Museum, Vienna), Human + (the Science Gallery, Dublin), Alter Nature: The Unnatural Animal (Z33, Hasselt), Meta.Morf (the Biennale for Art and Technology, Trondheim), Further Instructions (The Arts Catalyst, London) and Examples to Follow! (Uferhallen, Berlin). In 2011 he won an Award of Distinction in the Hybrid Art category at Prix Ars Electronica (Linz). Van Balen lives and works in London.