„(…) what defined the objective world was not a single reality disclosed similarly to all its inhabitants but the way we perceive and act in the world. Put the other way round, the way we perceive, valorize, and act in a world defines its objectivity to us. From this perspective, there was no objective time or space but a reality consisting of various differing ways of contracting time and space.”
Jussi Parrika – Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology.
The project has started from observations of the urban environment as a ground of interplays between technology, architecture and nature. As the work progressed, an attempt was made to follow and understand animals’ possible perspectives on the city. Among many species, one of the common city dwellers, widely exploring its potentials, are insects. Their intuitive and, at the same time, structured cooperation, ability to respond and adjust their activities of swarms and colonies to a given environment, their metamorphosis, mimicries, individual plasticity and personalities’ variations are the field of research and inspired sciences and humanities.
Insects are active users of urban facilities, first occupants of new buildings, brave co-creators of the environment and of the soundscape. At the same time, they are receivers of city sounds, vibes and radiations. The project examines insects’ activities and communication as one of the multiple layers of signals and vibes that form the urban environment and the soundscape. By bringing forth insects’ presence in the city, it attempts to extend the perspective on the city, including various understandings of scale, time, termination of happenings and questions about our relations to non-humans and to our environments.
The fieldwork focused on the Pyrrhocoris apterus (eng: Firebug; de: Gemeine Feuerwanze). Recognizable for its wing colour patterns and multiple big colonies, Firebug is a common inhabitant of European cities. At the same time, it is being researched in the context of insects’ personalities and vibrational communication, which is the main way of their communication, since Firebugs can’t hear. Observations and recordings of one colony of Firebugs – near to the Oderstraße bridge over the city train rails in Berlin Neukölln – took place over a period of 2 months – April, Mai 2021 – with additional recordings in June and August 2021. Records include behaviour and interactions between up to 3 bugs for up to 2 hours at once. Parallelly, vibrations appearing in the closest surrounding of the firebugs’ colony – rhythms and cycles of the city found within the soil and infrastructures – have been captured. The focus of the recordings was structure-borne sound.
In the installation both, vibrations of the city and of insects are audible. Long sequences of insects’ activities are introduced to reflect the timbre and timing of happenings. Structure-borne sounds produced by insects include various activities: e.g: attracting a female, copulating, signalling danger, cleaning the antennas, waxing legs, eating, exploring the little branch or rolling the little stone. An attempt was made to capture communication signals eg. stridulations.
The research, fieldwork and recorded material were consulted with dr.Roland Mühlethaler – entomologist specialized in insect vibrational communication. During fieldwork, contact microphones created by dr.Roland Mühlethaler for the purposes of capturing insects’ vibrations, as well as Geofón have been used.
Many thanks to Lilli Kuschel, dr. Roland Mühlethaler.
The project is kindly supported by ADAM Audio.
2021 – Medienhaus UdK Berlin
2022 – More-than-human perspectives and regenerative art practices toward climate justice Symposium Oxford University + UdK
2022 – Museum für Naturkunde Berlin – LNDW Berlin