Invitation to an Insect Rendezvous
Artist Brandon Ballengée asks us to spend an intimate evening with bugs.
Interest in Insects Everywhere
Discussions of the importance of insect life to the planet’s ecosystems are a common part of Love Motel installations, as are new scientific revelations. At a Love Motel in Gongju, South Korea, professional entomologists from Gyeryongsan Natural History Museum identified three arthropod species that hadn’t been known to exist in that area. Because the public is so engaged with observing insects at Love Motel installations, such findings are often produced with the help of untrained citizen scientists, leading to a newfound awareness of ecological relationships. In Ireland’s Lough Boora Parklands, near Dublin, a Love Motel inspired visitors to examine arthropod species that may have returned to the park as a result of recent wetland restoration efforts. Ballengée has also trained a group of citizen scientists in New York City to collect Love Motel data. Some of their contributions to science have included the discovery that the most productive, or rather reproductive, time period for insects begins one hour after sunset and lasts for approximately ninety minutes.
It turns out there is a lot to learn from bugs. Fifty years ago, in Silent Spring, Rachel Carson encouraged her readers, including scientists specializing in agricultural insecticide production, to consider the complex roles played by six-legged animals in the “vast web of life.” Since then, entomologists are increasingly publishing popular books extolling the importance of insects not only to planetary ecosystems but also to better understanding humanity. Thomas Eisner makes one of the most compelling points: Insects, he writes, “have succeeded in one major respect where humans have failed. They are practitioners of sustainable development. Although they are the primary consumers of plants, they do not merely exploit plants. They also pollinate them, thereby providing a secure future, both for themselves and for their plant partners.”
Unless we rethink the tendency to kill insects rather than respect them, such lessons go unlearned. Ballengée’s hope is to create experiences and events that enable us to rethink our cultural climate—“to activate community, to make people learn something and become inspired, to cause them some increased awareness to help protect insects, to make people a more invested part of the natural community.” In the illuminated space of Ballengée’s Love Motel for Insects, participants have the chance to focus on insects they do not normally consider, either because it’s usually too dark outside to see them or because we have been conditioned to squash them before we take a closer look. In that moment of peering into the motel structure, to observe, concentrate, appreciate, and study—to think about the ecological threads that connect the lives of insects and humans—participants’ imagination can grow in new directions. That’s when the Love Motel turns into a social sculpture, and that’s where the art happens.
Watch a video that includes an interview with Dr. Ballengée and visuals from the July 2014 RTP180 event in Research Triangle Park, NC:
- Ballengée, B. 2013. Skype conversation with the author. September 17, 2013.
- Beuys, J. 1993. Introduction. In Energy Plan for the Western Man: Joseph Beuys in America, compiled by C. Kuoni. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
- Carson, R. 1962. Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
- Eisner,T. 2003. For the Love of Insects. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press.
- Wilson, E. O 2010. The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.