Partnered: We Are All Pests
PARTNERED WE ARE ALL PESTS (2012)
termites, pine, custom electronics and microphone system, acrylic, recycled paper products
Partnered: We Are All Pests is a sonic floor installation that ultimately explores the notions of the definition of the term pest and the potential for accessing termites as possible partners in the production of renewable energy resources. This installation proposes several conceptual tracts with the main idea being the consideration of the human species existing as the planet’s most expansive pest through the hypothetical perception of other species’ points of view. The second is the potential partnership with a species that we consider a grotesque pest (termites) to create inherently usable hydrogen through naturally occurring biological process within their tiny bodies. The work explores several issues including biomimicry, emergence, sustainability, what it means to be an artist and researcher, the role of citizen technologists, and uninvited “collaborations” with other species to help solve environmental dilemmas that we has humans have developed and are solely responsible for.
The installation is a 9 foot by 9 foot pine floor that houses three termite enclosures. Each enclosure is filled with sculpted paper forms that are primarily made from human paper waste products (newspapers, paper cups, plates, phonebooks, copies of the artists electrical and gas bills, etc.) that are structurally reminiscent of termite colony construction. The termites are concurrently housed in these enclosures and naturally eat away at the paper forms. As the termites consume the paper forms they ultimately digest them and naturally release hydrogen gas thus taking human wastes and transforming and recycling them into usable materials. The release of this hydrogen gas and its production through the bacteria found in the termite’s body has been under investigation by the US Department of Energy as a potential alternative to fossil fuels. The installation also incorporates several piles of ground up paper products that hypothetically represent the amount of paper the termites would need to eat to power various human devices via hydrogen power. The pine floor is most importantly surveyed by custom audio equipment. The viewer is invited to stand, sit, or lay on the custom sonic floor. As they become immersed in the installation by standing on or engaging with the piece, the sound of the termites decomposing the paper waste forms is amplified through digital vibrance resonators and heard acoustically by the viewers in real time. The floor literally becomes a sonic plane. Each termite enclosure is built around two custom microphones that allows the termites chewing to be made audible to the human senses. Conceptually I am interested in exploring various levels of decay through this piece. As our bodies grow, age, and decay on a daily basis, we also aid in decaying the planet of its natural elements for our survival and contribute to its demise through our wastefulness. As we decay the planet we produce waste, these termites have the ability to deconstruct this waste and potentially give way to creating renewable resources for the continuation of human survival- that is if we stop and take the time to consider ourselves as pests and what we consider pests (termites) as equals that we can partner with for positive benefits.