Animal Spirits, 2008-19

Animal Spirits, 2008-19 

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 atop light tables. Unique objects.

Natural history study traditionally involves collecting and cataloguing 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: a sense that they are (or were) sentient beings steeped in an umwelt or ‘life-world’ brimming with subjective perceptual significance. For each individual such traits are tantamount to what we might call sentience or ‘spirit’. Collectively, these records of assorted ‘animal spirits’ are indicative of what ecologically animates the relict life-world of one tiny sliver of Lake Tyrrell’s sandy shore: an instance of why biologist EO Wilson calls invertebrates “the little things that run the world”.

Two affiliated artworks, The End of the Age of Entitlement and The Age of Loneliness 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