To study the architecture of ant colonies and their nests, entomologist and myrmecologist Walter Tschinkel developed a way to “record” their three-dimensional underground chambers: he pours 1200F molten aluminum into the hill and then excavates the hardened cast. The entire process can take around seven hours.
From the tunnel depths, patterns, variations, the “room” arrangements, and more, these resulting casts are full of information about different ant colonies and their behavior:
"You can see that where there’s a lot of traffic near the surface, the shaft is actually a ribbon, a wide tunnel like a superhighway," he says, gesturing to and describing the incredibly intricate ant architecture. “The more traffic it has, the wider it is.”
And beyond that, the sculptures mix science with art. But, of course, there’s a cost of insect life in this process:
"I don’t do it lightly, actually… The technique has helped prove that colonies can thrive up to 3.6 metres deep and house between 9,000 and 10,000 workers."
Filling the nest with molten aluminum (or concrete, as shown in this rather stunning video) started an interesting discussion in our house: sacrificing an entire ant colony to learn about it — agree or disagree? And why?
Related reading: Not All the Bugs In Your Home Are Bad.
"Poet of animation" Norman McLaren’s Spook Sport (1939), set to Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre (1874), which has a fascinating back story:
It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin….
According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.
You can find our favorite McLaren here: Boogie Doodle (1948), or check out Oskar Fischinger’s Optical Poem.
Made by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada for the Ulster Bank Belfast International Festival in Belfast, Ireland, this is WISH, an 11 acre portrait of a girl. It’s been nicknamed “The Face From Space” by locals.
Using 2,000 tons of topsoil, 2,000 tons of sand, grass, stones, and 30,000 manually placed wooden stakes, the face was originally plotted with state-of-the-art GPS technology, and then took four weeks and a huge team of community volunteers to make. Here’s a time lapse vid of their work.
We’re wondering if the project can be seen from the International Space Station. Follow this up with Sesame Street’s That’s about the size.