Animal Spirits (films), 2019

Animal Spirits (films), 2019 

A series of 85 various-sized plein air gelatin silver films recorded at night without a camera at Lake Tyrrell in the Mallee region of Victoria. Each film is encapsulated in a 40 cm x 50 cm Mylar envelope inscribed with a laser-engraved number. Displayed backlit. Unique objects.

Natural history research conventionally requires the collection and cataloguing of dead specimens. But these luminous shadows of flying, fighting, foraging and fraternizing arthropods (and a wriggling legless lizard) recorded on film without a camera reveal something only the living can: sentient beings steeped in an umwelt or ‘life-world’ brimming with subjective perceptual significance. Individually, such traits are tantamount to what we might call sentience or ‘spirit’. Economist John K Galbraith dubbed collective human economic drives ‘animal spirits’. Yet this collection of diminutive non-human ‘animal spirits’ animating the relict life-world of Lake Tyrrell’s sandy shore is surely a more fitting application of the term. An instance of why biologist Edward O Wilson called invertebrates “the little things that run the world”.

Two affiliated artworks, The End of the Age of Entitlement and Damselfly nebula digitally reiterate some of the films comprising Animal Spirits.

Collecting live ants with a portable vacuum device, December, 2009. Being elevated above the ground on the tubs was a precaution against ant bites! Photo by Rudy Frank

Collecting live ants with a portable vacuum device, December, 2009. Photo by Rudy Frank


Lake Tyrrell, Victoria, Australia

Imaging live ants on film without a camera using flash on the shore of the lake, March, 2009. Photo by Viren Mohan