ANTology: Artists and Visitors Work Together Like Ants in a Colony

Two artists accepted an invitation from the Canadian Museum of Nature to create works of art with the public in the gallery hosting Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants. Irina Lyubchenko tells about her experience last week with her 16 mm film project. Another artist, Dinorah Catzalco, will be the next of our Artists in the Gallery, from August 26 to 30.

A woman arranges art supplies on a table, beside a film projector in the exhibition.

Irina Lyubchenko at work in the exhibition. Image: Nathalie Rodrigue © Canadian Museum of Nature

When deciding what artwork I could create that potentially could involve a lot of public participation, I immediately thought of proposing a cameraless animation project.

Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants, the exhibition that I was a temporary part of, inspired me to create a short, 16 mm film of ants, paint on the film’s surface and project it onto a canvas that the ants were originally photographed on.

I have always been fascinated by how ants move and I was curious to see how these seemingly chaotic movements would translate to film, whose perceptual purpose is to fabricate illusion of motion.

I brought the film print, a projector and paints to the exhibition space and invited anyone interested to join me in altering the film’s surface, emphasising the nervousness of ants’ running around with the fast-changing blotches of colour and patterns.

A man and boy at a table with art supplies.

Both children and adults participated in the project. Even young children were able to create fantastic abstract animations. Image: Nathalie Rodrigue © Canadian Museum of Nature

I always believed in the power of the film’s medium and I was very excited to witness the reaction of kids who learned how to work with film for the first time. It was a tremendous pleasure to see them making art and then watching their one-second animations as a part of a larger film created by other museum visitors. It was as if we became an art colony and carefully crafted our film together, working in unison.

A girl holds a bottle of ink at a table in the gallery.

Children showed themselves to be enthusiastic artists. Image: Nathalie Rodrigue © Canadian Museum of Nature

Kids and adults both expressed interest and there was no restriction in terms of who could become an experimental filmmaker. A two-year old could mix and apply colour in such a way as to produce a stunning abstract animation.

I look forward to having another opportunity to make art at the museum, for I enjoyed greatly these bright interactions with so many wonderful people and their kids. I will always remember how kids kept asking me how I made those ants stay on my canvas!

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