Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hubert Dupras' little art workers

The images above illustrate the results of an unusual artistic collaboration between the French artist Hubert Duprat and a group of caddis fly larvae. A small winged insect belonging to the order Trichoptera and closely related to the butterfly, caddis flies live near streams and ponds and produce aquatic larvae that protect their developing bodies by manufacturing sheaths, or cases, spun from silk and incorporating substances—grains of sand, particles of mineral or plant material, bits of fish bone or crustacean shell—readily available in their benthic ecosystem. The larvae are remarkably adaptable: if other suitable materials are introduced into their environment, they will often incorporate those as well.

Hubert Duprat is one of those beautiful cases of scientist-turned-artist that makes me happy. Nature as a poietic element might not be anything new - after all, the wind does make magnificent drawings, and the sky is filled with clouds. Yet somehow, this is different. What possibly fascinates in this case is the fact that a live creature brings to life a work that seems to have the intelligent design typical of human activity. And it's not just about the art. Notice the difference between this and an elephant with a paintbrush: here, it is not the bare similarity with a man-made work of art that fascinates, but rather, the game between the demiurge and its work-turned-artist.
Once the stage is set, the director moves back, as his performers create.

See also the larvae in an action film.



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