Ants fascinate humans with their strength, their adaptability and their astonishing ability to work together to achieve goals. Artist Loren Kronemyer enlisted large groups of them to create her 2012 project, Myriad.
Kronemyer draws on paper with pheromones, then releases ants onto the paper. The ants, drawn to the scent, briefly cooperate in completing her designs before going back to their own patterns of movement. The artist explains that her projects explore “the notion of living drawing” as a collaboration showing the interplay of insect and human intelligence. Kronemyer, who has also created drawings with living tissues, says:
“The ant colony is a superorganism, a system with its own intelligence made up of many individuals, and the tissue is a fragment of an individual that is itself made up of many discreet living entities. I sit somewhere in the middle, meddling with both yet at the same time responsible for caring for them and keeping them alive.” (source)
The various works in Myriad are full of life and movement. The image of the brain, in particular, works as a great visual metaphor for a short attention span, or perhaps a sudden realization. Kronemyer, an American who moved to Australia to work with SymbioticA Lab, says that “at a certain point I stopped being interested in just representing living systems, and wanted to work with the systems themselves.” It’s a long way from paint and marble, yet the visual delight of her work keeps it from simply becoming a science-fair project and plants it firmly in the territory of art.
You can see more of Loren Kronemyer’s work at her website.
Ants are crawling over the walls of London’s Saatchi Gallery. No, the cleaners aren’t on strike; the ants are an installation by Colombian artist Rafael Gómezbarros, part of a group exhibition called Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America.
If you look closely, you will see that the bodies of the ants, each of which is 50 CM (about 19 inches) long, are made up of casts of human skulls in fiberglass and resin. For the artist, the ants represent the millions of immigrants traveling the earth in search of a home. In particular, Gómezbarros pays tribute to thousands of Colombians who suffered internal displacement and violent deaths in the armed conflicts that have convulsed his country over the past five decades. His ants have taken over the facades of several important buildings in Colombia, including the National Congress building in Bogotá.
Why ants? It’s easy to see why they work well as a stand-in for the teeming masses of immigrants. Humble, hardworking and capable of building complex social organizations, ants are also unfortunately easy for larger animals to snack on or crush underfoot. But ants are resilient, too. They are able to “farm” their own foodstuffs, band together to kill much larger species, and create rafts of their own bodies to float in water. Ants are survivors.