How might an exhibition be guided by ants?
Humans have forgotten how much we owe to the ants, who were the great innovators of complex societies like our own, and once our greatest teachers. Many contemporary humans look at ants, if they look at them at all, with an unquestioning sense of intellectual and moral superiority, seeing ants as interchangeable, unthinking, machine-like. If ants are represented in museums at all, it is usually as pinned exhibits in natural history collections, rather than as producers of complex cultures. To address this, Feral Practice invited a community of wood ants to work on this exhibition as co-curators and guides.Together, they explore some of the complex histories and earthly wisdom that ants have brought to humans over the millennia.
The Ant-ic Museum utilises materials, forms and themes influenced by the perceptual and semiotic priorities of ants. Three new sculptures bring the domed shape of the wood ant nest into dialogue with human architectural forms - the ziggurat, the stupa, the geodesic dome. Audio and video works embedded in these sculptures offer intimate views of the wood ants’ world.
The exhibition publication is shaped around an interview between Feral Practice and the Broxa Forest Sisterhood of the North York Moors. Together with a fragrant and sculptural wall installation of collages, its sprawling structure evoking the tunnels and chambers of the ant nest, their dialogue explores our entanglement, and the sometimes dark teaching that humans have gleaned from the ants, on topics including farming, slavery, family, war, hierarchy and architecture.
The exhibition publication is shaped around an interview between Feral Practice and the Broxa Forest Sisterhood of the North York Moors.
Feral Practice has been researching and working with ants since 2014.
Thanks to Stour Valley Creative Partnership, and to Stour Valley Arts before them, who supported us with residencies over many years to engage deeply with the wood ant sisterhood of Kings Wood in Kent. Thanks also to Forestry England, who supported a residency at Dalby in May 2021, enabling our work with the wood ant population of Broxa Forest.