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I AM HERE

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

About The Book & This Blog

At the beginning of conceiving the idea, I accidentally thought that this was a independent project (and I wanted to do so, to put the outcome into my portfolio). Thus, in the design aspect I decided to make the pages be more coherent, which can demonstrate my thinking process in a clear way.


At here, I may add more informations that are not displayed on the book because most of the researches were based on the website and re-arrange all the stuff with stronger logical link. Hopefully, I can rationally organize and demonstrate my idea.


"AM I HERE?"

“I am here" can be regarded as a topic as easy as a common daily sentence. However, taking a further deliberation. It also can be a sentence which tends to declare the corrent condition of ourselves, demonstrating really clear answers to the questions that we may usually ask. I think "I am here" is a perfect sentence which clearly reflect the self-recognition of "who", "when" and "where". Therefore, we are unconsciously agreeing on the existence of ego, time and space while when we are speaking this sentence. This assumption really motivates me and I am interested in excavating the deeper interpretation of it. I asked myself at the starting,"Am I here?" and "What does 'I am here' mean?".

THINK!

As the first step, I just questioned myself about

the opinion of this topic without any researching.


"HERE"

I marked out the place that where I was at that moment. Next, I started to record the longitude and latitude of the place and tracked my space movement with the coordinates.


"I"

I questioned myself how to define "myself" and how we recognize the world. The initial answer that popped up from mind is "perception". Firstly, in my opinion, "I" was somewhat demonstrating the awareness of noticing the difference between the things around and ego, which may be based on the self-recognition that bring by the relating perception. In the Buddhist philosophy, people's earthly recognitions were coming from six aspects, which are vision, listening, smell, taste, touch, and the illusion of idea. Thus, I drew a self-portrait with peaceful face and some smoke-like patterns, which were absorbing by the ears and nose to reflect this point.


By the influence of Buddhism and Taoism, I thought that the brain was only a vessel of awareness or soul. Moreover, I attempted to create a mirror-like effect with using the silver paper (same idea of using silver acrylic as the background). My idea was based on another Buddhist thought which generally meant that the things we see are the reflection of our mind, and that was the reason why I wrote down, "I'm not here". Moreover, I added a tongue with Descartes' portrait because I was attracted by his quotation, "I think therefore I am".


“AM" & Brainstorm


For this part, I wanted to perceive "present" and the flow of time. So I did a little action art that I constantly wrote down "I am here" and the Greenwich Mean Time of that moment. However, after listing down some, I crossed off every "am" because the words that I wrote had already been as a history.


Then I did a simple brainstorm that listing out several key words. In general, I would be more focusing on figure out the interpretation of "I am here" in philosophical and social way.


Key Words

Physical, Philosophical, Social

Philosophical

René Descartes

On account of the interest of Descartes' quotation, I was curious on finding out the interpretation of the sentence as well as more information about him . (I did a small collage to combine his hand and portrait which made it looks funny.)


Within the text, I found Descartes' original saying contains another part about doubting, which may further refer to binary opposition of matter. This idea propelled my to associate to the classic question, "who am I?". In addition, a new doubt came out of my mind, "does the other animals have similar self-recognition ability?".


Referring to the animals, there was a thought popped up in my mind which immediately turned me to Chinese Lao-Zhuang's thought. It was a allegory called The Butterfly Dream which was about Zhuang-Zi (Chuang Chou) and a butterfly.


"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things."

As translated by Lin Yutang


In Zhuang-Zi's philosophy, he was accentuating the uniformity of nature and human. Inspired by his thought, the definition of self could be extraordinarily vast because we were composed by the nature. Consequently, we may have somewhat link with all things on earth in material way.




Afterwards, I found a work that drawn by Lü Shou-kun in 1974, which based on the Zhuang-Zi's story. In the picture, the artist brushed black ink on the lower half and a red butterfly on the top. As for me, I thought the black part is representing the yoke of material world and the butterfly was the pure spirit that got the rid of the world, which eventually realized the state of uniformity.

Another ancient Chinese thinker who named Gao-Zi, used to say:"the desire for food and sex is human's nature". Back to the general nature world, I thought these natural characters are still suitable for all the livings.





Interpretations of Self

  • "The totality in psychology of sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes and feelings of which an individual or a group is aware at any given time or within a particular time span."

  • "The philosophy of self defines, among other things, the conditions of identity that make one subject of experience distinct from all others. Contemporary discussions on the nature of the self are not thereby discussions on the nature of personhood, or personal identity. The self is sometimes understood as a unified being essentially connected to consciousness, awareness, and agency (or, at least, with the faculty of rational choice). Various theories on the metaphysical nature of the self have been proposed. Among them, the metaphysical nature of the self has been proposed to be that of an immaterial substance."

Within these interpretations, I noticed that "self" (or 'individual') may defined in the counter of "collective" (or 'group'). This point reminded me about the social aspect of my existence, where I was playing roles such as a son, a student, a citizen and etc.. Thus, I started to research about the relationship between individual and society.


Relation between Individual and Society

F. M. Anayet Hossain*, Md. Korban Ali

1. Society does not exist independently without individual. The individual lives and acts within society but society is nothing, in spite of the combination of individuals for cooperative effort.

2. The term “society” means relationships social beings, men, express their nature by creating and re-creating an organization which guides and controls their behavior in myriad ways.

3. Society is a system of usages and procedures of authority and mutual aid many divisions of controls of human behavior and of liberties.

4. Society not confined to man [Green A.W. (1968) Sociology: An Analysis of Life in Modern Society. McGraw Hill Book Company, New York, 10- 14. ]. It should be clear that society is not limited to human beings. There are many degrees of animal societies, likely the ants, the bee, the hornet, are known to most school children.

5. A society is a collection of individuals united by certain relations or modes of behavior which mark them off from others who do not enter into those relations or who differ from them in behavior.

6. Man can never develop his personality, language, culture and “inner deep” by living outside the society.

7. Human cannot survive without society and societies cannot exist without members.

8. In reality, it is not society or individual but it is society and individual which helps in understanding the total reality.


After reading this article, I realized that "society" and "individual" are quite unified topics which reminded me about the philosophy of Tai-chi. Society and individual were not absolutely a binary opposition; instead, they were working on a identical routine which interacted with each other. On another hand, "Man can never develop his personality, language, culture and 'inner deep' by living outside the society" (F. M. A. Hossain, Md. K. Ali. Relation between Individual and Society. p. 132) also let me think of Lao-zi's thought of “govern by non-interference“. Apart from society, "individual" would lose its meaning and all the knowledge that established base on that will be demolished. That's why Lao-zi held an extreme pessimistic thought for destroy the cognition of general society and reduce the trouble in life. Finally, the article mentioned about as a massive "organization", society somewhat limits the liberty of individuals. Hence, I planed to start the research of artist which was more focusing on social and political way.


Ai Wei-wei

Biography

Art Gallery of Ontario, Ai Weiwei, 2010

"Ai Weiwei (born 28 August 1957 in Beijing) is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. His father's (Ai Qing) original surname was written Jiang. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. "


Wikipedia


While I was thinking about the meaning of individual in social way, the first artist came out of my mind is Ai Wei-wei, a highly controversial Chinese artist. To be more specific, his famous work, Sunflower Seed was the one that stroke me a lot.

"Ai Wei-wei's Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands.


Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today."

"It alludes to the globalization and mass production in China that caters to western consumerism, and to the deemed insignificant element at the bottom of the production chain - thousands of cheap labors, assembly lines in gigantic factories, and tedious procedures."


As for me, I thought this work is not only an installation which may strike the audiences in visual way. Through the video that provided by Tate, I was profoundly appealed by the process of making the porcelain sunflower seeds because it revealed out the complex procedure and thousands of labour worked behind millions of seeds. Alike these seeds, those anonymous workers were "apparently identical, but actually unique", they were in different age levels, and distinct personalities and families.

The most engaging part of the video should be the firing the porcelain seeds. While the sacred light of fire beaming out of the oven, as if an overwhelming power break through the darkness and manifesting a brand new day. On the one hand, I thought this scene is demonstrating the power of the mass when they gather together. On another hand, based on the figure of a sunflower seed, it seemed as a release of the energy that these seeds absorbed from the "sun".


In the Tate's introduction of this work, there were three questions left for audiences to think:


What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society?

Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together?

What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?


Following these questions, I started to look at more Ai's works and his biography.

"What single thing would improve the quality of your life?"

"The freedom to express myself."

Ai Weiwei to The Guardian23 November 2012

  1. Hanging Man, 1985, Metal clothes hanger with frame, 66 x 50 cm

  2. Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,1995, Triptych of black-and- white prints, each 199.9 × 180 cm

  3. Table and Pillar, 2002, Table and pillar from dismantled temple of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), 460 × 90 × 90 cm

  4. Straight, 2008–12 Steel reinforcing bars, 1200 × 600 cm

  5. Surveillance Camera, 2010 Marble, 39.2 × 39.8 ×19 cm

  6. He Xie, 2011 Porcelain crabs, 3,000 pieces, each 5 × 25 × 10 cm

  7. Coca Cola Vase, 2011, acrylic on Han dynasty vase

  8. Souvenir from Shanghai, 2012, Concrete and brick rubble from the artist’s destroyed Shanghai studio, set in a wooden frame, 380 × 170 × 260 cm

  9. S.A.C.R.E.D., 2011–13 Installation view in Chiesa di Sant’ Antonin, Venice, 2013, Six-part work composed of six dioramas – Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy, Doubt – in fibreglass, iron, oxidised metal, wood, polystyrene, sticky tape, each 377 × 198 × 153 cm

  10. Very Yao, 2009–14 (representative image) Forever Bicycles, installation view, Martin- Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2014

Resource from Royal Academy of Art's exhibition guide

Image courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © Ai Weiwei


"Liberty, is about our right to question everything."


After reading some information about Ai's life experience and some of his workpieces in corresponding time period. For sure, standing on the political field, he was a complicated artist, a citizen. However, he showed his bolshy attitude through the works that usually contained the concept of "readymade" which inherited from Marcel Duchamp. The difference in Ai's works I thought is that he combined Chinese traditional culture and the temporal issues. Therefore, they were more concerned on political, social and the discussion of tradition aspects rather than Duchamp's disregard of aesthetics. Back to the three questions above, Ai was questioning about the status of individuals in society and how did they react with this "organization which guides and controls their behavior in myriad ways" (F. M. A. Hossain, Md. K. Ali. Relation between Individual and Society. p. 131).




With the inspiration of Ai's Sunflower Seeds and a sentence in the Relation between Individual and Society, "There are many degrees of animal societies, likely the ants, the bee, the hornet, are known to most school children", I started to question myself, "does animal have consciousness?". I mainly focusing on the research of ants.


What I found initially is a test to testify whether a non-human animal can recognize itself.


"The mirror test – sometimes called the mark test, mirror self-recognition test (MSR), red spot technique, or rouge test – is a behavioural technique developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. as an attempt to determine whether a non-human animal possesses the ability of visual self-recognition."

Gallup, GG Jr. (1970). "Chimpanzees: Self recognition". Science. 167 (3914): 86–87. Bibcode:1970Sci...167...86G. doi:10.1126/science.167.3914.86. PMID 4982211.

However, in the further research, I found that MSR still has it defect.


  • "The MSR test is the traditional method for attempting to measure self-awareness. However, there has been agreement that animals can be self-aware in ways not measured by the mirror test, such as distinguishing between their own and others' songs and scents."

Bekoff, Marc (2002-09-19). "Animal reflections"(PDF). Nature.


  • "On the other hand animals can pass the MSR and not necessarily have self-awareness."

Cammaerts, Marie-Claire, and Roger Cammaerts (2015-07-01). "Are ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) capable of self recognition?" (PDF). Journal of Science. 5 (7): 521–532.




The title "Are Ants (Hymenoptera Formicidae) Capable of Self Recognition" deeply attracted me. Hence, I started to read it for find out more information about ant's self-recognizing ability.




Abstract of this article

(Myrmica sabuleti worker, Myrmica ruginodis worker, Myrmica rubra worker)

"In front of a mirror, and consequently of their reflection view, ants behaved otherwise than when in front of nestmates seen through a glass. Seeing nestmates through a glass, ants behaved as usual, i.e. without taking close notice of them. In front of a mirror, they rapidly moved their head and antennae, to the right and the left, touched the mirror, went away from it and stopped, cleaning then sometimes their legs and antennae. As long as they could not see themselves in a mirror, ants with a blue dot painted on their did not try to remove it. Set in front of a mirror, ants with such a blue dot on their clypeus tried to clean themselves, while ants with a brown painted dot ‒ of the same color as that of their cuticle ‒ on their clypeus and ants with a blue dot on their occiput did not clean themselves. Very young ants did not present such behavior. Contrary to the other kinds of marking, a blue dot on the clypeus induced aggressiveness in nestmates. The front part of the head is thus an essential species specific character for leading to acceptance. Although further experiments are required, preferentially on ants and social hymenoptera with an excellent visual perception, our observations suggest some ants can recognize themselves when confronted with their reflection view, this potential ability not necessary implicating some self awareness."





After finish reading the article, I arranged the highlight parts and organized some datas in a form. Simultaneously, I was starting to conceive an idea based on the description of this mirror test experiment because there were a lot of valuable recording about the experimental instruction. Eventually, there were some questions coming up; I wanted to paint the ants in a same colony because ant's colony implied a miniature of human society and this point inspired me to find the similarities between ants' behaviour and what I "am" doing in the social environment. Mainly, I planned to use a video or photographs to present as the outcome. I used fine point pen to draw a very prototypical sketch on the paper to roughly demonstrate the idea of "I am here".





Next, I sent an e-mail to seek for answers from Dr. Marie-Claire Cammaert and fortunately I received her reply:


1.“ Each collected colony contained one to four queens, brood (larvae, nymphs) and about 500 workers”. Can I record ants living with the colony that lack of a part or only a few ants (e.g. 20 workers)? Will it occur any unnatural behaviour in that circumstance?

20 is not enough


2. “ MATERIAL AND METHODS - Collection and maintenance of ants” (the introduction of the artificial nests) Is that the most suitable environment for ants? Is there an exact temperature or month that the Myrmica ants go to hibernate? What if they are living in an empty box, does it impact their lifestyle? What is the effect of ambient electromagnetic field used for? And how does the intensity affects the ants?

Try to find the best maintenance system. EMF killed the ants (and all the living organisms)


3."A small spot of blue or brown paint (enamel, Airfix ®)”

“With a blue spot on the upper middle part of their fore head, and only with such a marking, the ants no longer present the correct visual species specific configuration."

Does the enamel contain odour or toxin which may affect the behaviour of the ants? Can I paint the whole body of an ant except its upper middle part of the fore head?

You cannot paint an ant (entirely); it will die


B.“ Consisting essentially of individuals' cuticular lipids, are probably the most important [33, 34].” Why do the consisting individuals' cuticular lipids are the most important? Does it mean if the enamel is covered all part of the ant, the lipid will no longer work?

Correct


5. What is the reason for using 'entomology pin' and 'polyacetate glass’? To be more specific, how to colour them with these tools?

You can use any cup you want (add talc to prevent escaping)


The feeling after reading Doctor's reply was complex because the difficulty of realizing my idea was aggravating while I was gradually knowing more about this realm. Not only petting these ants, but also painting and making the video required to concern numerous aspects. I was nearly on the edge of give up this project, but when I looked back to what I had done already, I felt so reluctant to discard this topic. Thus, I started to research more relavent resource online; occasionally, I found a lab (Pratt Lab) in Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences were doing some research about painted ants.

Discover


I was profoundly inspired by this video on how to paint the ants and the material suggestions. Moreover, I really love the colours that the scientist selected because the combination of them were so harmonious.




Also, I noted down several key words about equipment and tips of operation:

  • CO2 cylinder

  • A single strand of hair

  • Sponge podium

  • Ventral side is facing the sponge

  • Back is pointing out

  • Ultrafine paintbrush

  • Plastic cage

  • 20 minutes

This video deeply cheered me up because I was more clear about how to paint the ants. At the bottom of the video description, I found another interesting thing, bio tracking, which the Pratt Lab used to apply on their researches.


"This is the first iteration of a modular software suite for tracking and analyzing multiple agents. Licensed under GPL it is free for non-commercial use and development. This open-source project makes use of the OpenCV, PointCloud Library, and QT libraries.“



Unfortunately, this software was no longer running by the team so that my idea of trying it was failed.


In the next step, I decided to write an e-mail to Dr. Stephen Pratt, the principal investigator of Pratt Lab, to ask about his suggestions on material selection and operating tips. Also, I was excited that I got the feedback from him very soon.

1. Did the ants that coloured different colours appear aggressive behaviour when they met?

  • "I have never observed any effect of paint color on how painted ants interact with each other. I would be surprised if color itself was important to them, as their nestmate recognition mechanisms work via odor rather than vision. Of course, it is possible that paints of different color smell different to the ants. If so, I have not observed it to affect their behavior. Ants from the same colony are not normally aggressive to one another, and I have not noticed aggression between painted and unpainted ants, or between ants painted different colors. One thing that I have noticed is that the ants sometimes actively remove all of the paint within a day of my painting them. This seems more likely when I paint only a subset of the colony (say, one-third of the ants). I speculate that the ants do not like it when some of their nestmates smell differently, because of the paint, and therefore remove the unfamiliar-smelling paint. However, if all the ants are painted, then they learn the new odor as part of their common nest odor. I am not sure if this is true, but I recommend painting as many of the ants in the colony as possible, in case it is."

2. What species of ant do you recommend to paint and observe? Is it relating to the vision of the ant?

  • “The species that we regularly paint are in the genus Temnothorax. These include T. rugatulus, T. curvispinosus, and T. albipennis (which is found in the UK). However, I would recommend using different species, as Temnothorax are quite small and thus challenging to paint. Other researchers have successfully painted a variety of ants, including the genera Camponotus, Myrmica, Lasius, Aphaenogaster, Messor, Pogonomyrmex, and many others. Larger ants are easier to paint, and you may find that you do not need to knock them out with carbon dioxide. You can instead hold them with forceps while you paint them. By the way, chilling is another effective way to immobilize ants.“

3. Which kind of paint you used in the painting, was it the enamel? Did the paint contain any odor or toxin which may affect the behaviour of the ants? Can I paint the whole body of an ant including its upper middle part of the forehead?

  • “Enamel paints (like those made by the Testors company) are used by many ant researchers. I have had more success with lacquer paints formerly sold under the brand name Pactra. That brand is now only available as a spray paint, but you can buy a similar paint from duratrax.com. I have not yet tried this paint, but it seems identical to the Pactra product. Look for the paints sold for R/C cars.“

4. Based on the article by Dr. Marie-Claire Cammaerts and Dr. Roger Cammaerts’ ARE ANTS (HYMENOPTERA, FORMICIDAE) CAPABLE OF SELF RECOGNITION? in the Journal of Science which mentioned “consisting essentially of individuals' cuticular lipids, are probably the most important”. Does it mean if the enamel is covered all part of the ant, the lipid will no longer work?

  • “I have never painted the entire body of the ant, so I do not know what effect this would have on them. It might produce challenges for nest mate recognition, or otherwise influence the health of the ants. It is worth trying to see how this works.“





Dr. Pratt gave me abundant information about the experimenting details. Then I knew how to properly select the paint, species of the ant and how did the ants interact with their nest mates. In addition, there were some question marks still left to me, which was waiting for me to find out through the real experiment.


I thought I have got enough information on the operation part. In the following steps, there were four sections that I need to do, which were setting the shopping list, researching about ant's body structure and general lifestyle, studying the way of feeding the ants, borrowing proper recording equipments and looking for more artists' works that relating to the ant to find if there is anything can inspire me. I set a to-do list for myself (this version is not the primary one).







RESEARCH OF RELATED ARTISTS AND THEIR WORKS


Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan and his work

I started to search for some works that either contain the ideas or elements of the ant. Firstly, I looked a picture album called The Revolution Continues, which was mainly introducing the contemporary Chinese art's development. In this book, it was not hard to find out that many art works' target were revolving around "people", a none that would be one of the most prominent elements that repeatedly occurred in Chinese contemporary art. There was a picture captured my eyes, a painting that was done by Zhang Huan, named Insect Painting NO.2.



Insect Painting NO.22007, oil on canvas, 250*360 cm

This work just looked as a canvas that painted with apricot colour in a certain distance. However, the details just showed a true size of ants, which was interestingly fit with the title.

"Zhang’s painting, Insects No. 2, continues these concepts, but in a different form, establishing a self-referential lexicon and harmonious continuity of his practice. Presented as a vast colourfield, the surface of the painting replicates flesh: sickly pink and battered, pocked, scratched, and gauged, a tactile skin both tortured and flawed. The spindly bugs which punctuate the canvas are equally parasitic and autonomous, sequestered and isolated in the afflicted terrain."

Saatchi Gallery


Within the description by Saatchi Gallery, I really like the word "isolated", which I think it perfectly depict the situation of these ants. Besides, isolation was also a common situation that happened in nowadays society. In China, because of the urbanization, the original lifestyle had been utterly changed. The relationship between neighbourhoods were gradually alienating. Even the emotional distance between people were separating on account of the overusing of electronic devices and internet. As these ants, people were relatively tiny in the society, and swamped in the dilemma of isolation.



Salvador Dalí

Continuing to search for the art pieces that related to the ants, I found that the figure of ants repeatedly appeared in many of Dalí's paintings. The first one I looked up is his

The Ants (Las Hormigas) in 1929.

Salvador Dalí

THE ANTS (LAS HORMIGAS), 1929

Gouache, ink and collage on thin plywood

4 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. 11.5 x 16.4 cm

Signed



Then, I read the introduction of this work.


Though reading the text, I understood that the ants in Dalí work were symbolizing the power of devouring that contrasting with the permanence as well as sexual anxiety, which was relating to his childhood experience. At the same time, the paragraphs gave me some works that were also containing this element.





The Persistence of Memory, 1931

Un Chien Andalou (stills), 1929

The Great Masturbator, 1929





In Dalí's words, he called this kind of dream-like paintings, "hand painted dream photographs". As the ants in The Persistence of Memory, they acted like the creature that consuming the time. Referring to The Great Masturbator, "an ant colony adds to the atmosphere of uneasiness and tension". For the further research about Dalí's works which relating to the ant symbol, I got the help from Robert Radford's Dalí.


[CONTENT WITH SCANNED PAGES]


  1. Partial Hallucination: Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Piano, 1931

  2. The Enigma of Desire - My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, 1929

  3. The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937

  4. Autumn Cannibalism, 1936

  5. The Accommodations of Desire, 1929

  6. The Ants, 1937

  7. Daddy Longlegs of the Evening… Hope!, 1940

“Ants horrify me. In my work I paint what horrifies me, the demonical, and what exalts me, the angelic.”


To focus on the ant symbol that used on Dalí's surrealistic paintings, the idea of "symbolization" really stroke me. In his interpretation, he metamorphosed one of the ant's most fundamental action, eating, into decay and destruction, which was prominently combining with his specific experience. As for me, I could begin to think about the most basic properties of the ant and how do I feel about them.



David Wojnarowicz

"David Michael Wojnarowicz (September 14, 1954 – July 22, 1992) was an American painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, songwriter/recording artist and AIDS activist prominent in the New York City art world"

Wikipedia


David did an art project called Ant Series which were six black and white photographs that were all containing the ants. He put the ant models on the pictures including a nude male body from the shoulders to knees, a soldier toy that buried in the soil, Christ on the cross, a clock and some coins on the ground, a revolver and a sign that partially showed its content, which contained letters of "EN EL EL PU".


Ant Series1988

Every pictures were named Untitled, but there was following with a word in the parenthesis.

(Desire)

(Control)

(Spiritually)

(Time/ Money)

(Violence)

(Language)

I was assuming that there were somewhat connection of the interpretation between Dalí and David's ant. It could be the scorn of what people were believing from the perspective of the ants. On another way to think, the ants could be the miniature of humans because these two species both had instinctive social system. Same as these ants, people were attached to these elements. These were all the very primary of fundamental parts of human who were living in the society.


"Ants feature frequently in Wojnarowicz’s paintings and photographs from the mid- to late 1980s (see, for instance, Earth 1987) and animals were a recurring subject throughout his career. Discussing his use of animal motifs in 1989, the artist stated: ‘I was thinking about human society’s rejection of nature ... Most artists that I was aware of who would make images with any emotional content would use an image of a human as a source for that emotion ... What I was trying to do ... was to take that power away from people and give it back to “nature” by using animals as metaphors’. Regarding this particular series, he stated in the same interview: I used the ants as a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is parallel to ours. They have queens, they create wars, they keep pets, they keep slaves; there’s this whole social structure that isn’t far different from our own’ (Wojnarowicz 2015, p.186)."

Tate



Rivane Neuenschwander & Cao Guimarães


These two Brazilian artists recorded a five-minute video in the rainforest.


Quarta-Feira de Cinzas / Epilogue, 2006


(a part of the video)

"As the video progresses it begins to show multiple ants per scene: a pair collaborate to move a disc up a small hill, and a group fights over a piece of silver confetti."

Summary of Tate (same as below)

Although I could not watch the entire video, I think it is a nice idea to plan for each scene because to keep a certain amount of ants could help to draw the focal point in the scene rather than messing up with plenty of ants.


"The film’s soundtrack combines ambient noises, such as bird calls, leaves rustling and cars passing, with the rhythmic sound of matchsticks hitting the ground. "

If I am going to make a video, the background sound should be a crucial part.


"This date marks Ash Wednesday, the first day of the annual Christian season of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting and repentance that precedes Easter. To make the film, the artists saturated the confetti discs in pork fat and sugar."

To let the ants follow the designated plan, I do need to concern about rational schemes.


"Neuenschwander has described the work as an attempt to ‘capture the mood of the end of the festival, when there is a certain melancholy after the days of madness and excess’ (Neuenschwander in Luke 2009, p.97). This melancholy may relate to the self-deprivation that follows Carnaval as Lent begins, and to the prospect of returning to the normal rhythms of work and life – a process alluded to in the ants’ efficient transportation of the confetti."

I could somehow get the emotion that the artist wanted to express. The tune and sound of the video (from that brief one) effectively recalled my similar experience, which was the depression springing up when the extreme exhilaration past. Meanwhile, I was fascinated by the word "self-deprivation", how accurate it is! This word inspired me to think more about the precise emotion that existing in our society currently.


"The use of ants also allows parallels to be drawn between animal behaviour and the social rituals of human communities, exploring the boundaries between natural and constructed worlds."

Similar as David Wojnarowicz said, both "animal behaviour" and "the social rituals of human communities", "natural world" and "constructed world" are very thought-provoking contras. Admittedly, in my opinion, things that were containing certain similarities but not absolutely the same are really attractive.

"In this sense, these two artists’ practices can be placed between the documentary and the poetic, exploring natural and cultural phenomena through works that concentrate on what Guimarães calls ‘micro-dramas of form’ – apparently ordinary elements and events that hold dramatic potential (Guimarães in Felipe Scovino, Arquivo Contemporâneo, Rio de Janeiro 2009, p.49). Neuenschwander uses the term ‘ethereal materialism’ to describe her poetic interpretation of everyday events and materials, and of their ephemerality and unpredictability."

OH MY GOD! I love these words so much!

Micro-dramas of Form

Ephemerality

Unpredictability



Roni Horn






“Roni Horn (born September 25, 1955) is an American visual artist and writer. The granddaughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, she was born in New York, where she lives and works.“

Tate










Ant Farm, 1974-75

Oak, glass, earth, and ants

"Ant Farm is the first example of Horn’s commitment to creating works that engage the viewer actively in their full realisation. Ant Farm, in a sense, identifies the act of observation as the content of the work."



Actually, ant farm had become as a common toy that children used for observing the ants' activities. However, at that time, the artist put forward the concept of "observing" the work might be novel.






For sure, in a project relating to micro-world or the living things, to evoke the viewers' curiosity of observing it is a good entry point.







THE ANT

Ant Anatomy

I found a lot of information about the ant from the website of Arizona State University. Firstly, based on the given information, I took some pictures of ant anatomy to study the terms. The reason why I wanted to study this is because I was wondering about which part of ant may have the potential danger that caused by enamel.




In the following content, I may list some of the key points for reminding myself:

  • Workers are adult females that don’t reproduce, but perform all the other jobs needed to keep an ant colony alive and healthy.

  • The ant’s second body segment, the mesosoma, is packed full with muscles that power its three pairs of legs.

  • The gaster contains the ant’s heart, digestive system, and chemical weaponry.

  • Some ants have a sting.


  • In between the mesosoma and the gaster is the petiole (a flexible junction, allowing the ant to bend its gaster forward to sting or spray and in some ants, the post-petiole).


  • Their compound eyes, like the eyes of most insects, can contain hundreds of lenses that combine to form a single image in the ant’s brain. Ants that use vision to hunt for prey have big compound eyes.

  • All workers are roughly the same size.


  • Minor workers are smaller and perform general labor such as taking care of the young, building and cleaning the nest, and gathering food. Major workers are larger and specialized to perform certain tasks. For example, major workers called soldiers.

  • Queens have most of the same body parts as workers.

  • The only time you’ll encounter a male ant is during mating, because they die shortly afterward.

  • The ant’s mesosoma includes the thorax plus the front of the abdomen – they are fused together.

  • Not all eggs are destined to become adults – some are eaten by nestmates for extra nourishment.

  • The pupae of some species spin a cocoon for protection, while others remain uncovered, or naked.

  • The process of development from egg to adult can take from several weeks to months, depending on the species and the environment.








Shopping List

Based on the informations above, I listed the materials that I might use in the process. However, my top choice of ant species was the Camponotus ants because their size were big (0.8-1.0 com), which was good for painting and taking photos. I also searched the Messor ants because they were easy to feed. My planned amount of workers should be 40, because it would be easier for me to divide into groups. Nevertheless, I could not find any suitable selling when I decided to buy. Therefore, I bought Temnothorax nylanderi ants which was as same as Pratt Lab used to paint, with merely around 20 workers to replace. It could be quite challenging to paint this species because it was small. Moreover, the lacquer paint which Dr. Pratt recommended could not ship from United State to here. Thus, I bought some enamels as Dr. Cammaerts did.


For organizing all parcels arriving date, I adjusted some of the items with similar one. Therefore, they will be all arrived between 20th to 23th October.




THEME SETTING

The primary point of this work was starting with the relationship between individual (me) and collective. While the way of painting the ants that scientists do to testify their self-recognition ability and etc. attracting me a lot. Based on the artist research that I did, I was deeply inspired by their marvellous works and trying to set several themes which were evolving around the contrast of individual and collective referring the social meanings. Particularly, I think David Wojnarowicz's Ant Series raised up my cultural and social awareness. For colour selection I chose three high saturation colours (Ferrari Red, Matt Lemon and Brunswick Green) with the contrast of two tint colours (Pink and Sea Blue). These five colours were respectively corresponding to Africa, North America, South America, Eurasia and Oceania which were the five continents contains a long history of mankind. To apply these five colours on the ants were targeting to imply different people in with different cultural backgrounds.