December 10, 2010 - January 22, 2011
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
The fecundity of the insect world is almost inconceivable. To each human life, there are more than 200 million insects. More horrifying perhaps are their fleshy, squirming larva, whose only purpose is to eat. While humans celebrate individuality, there exist countless amorphous beings, gorging and gorging themselves, often cannibalizing each other, growing so fast their exoskeletons are unable to keep up. With each molt a termite queen can add extra sets of ovaries, her abdomen growing to the point where she becomes a large white mass, as author Annie Dillard said, "I have seen a film of a termite queen as big as my face, dead white and featureless, glistening with slime, throbbing and pulsing our rivers of globular eggs…the whole world is an incubator for incalculable numbers of eggs, each one coded minutely and ready to burst." Producing up to 86,000 eggs a day and having grown to the point where her legs are tiny and useless, the termite queen should be the ultimate symbol of fertility instead of such things as bunnies and chocolate eggs. Important evolutionary developments brought our ancient ancestors to the modern humans we are today, and we value these changes as well as the power of creation and life. Even before the first dinosaurs appeared, insects had evolved complex and sophisticated strategies - many of which mimic our own. But the rampant fecundity and violence of the insects challenge the idea of a harmonious nature. Life is cheapened, as an insect could lay hundreds of eggs and then turn around and eat them. Although we may never see the inside chambers of a termite mound, as long as bedbugs and cockroaches thrive in our cities there can be no safe, clean divide between nature and civilization. Even in the soil of the average city football field, you will find more creatures than there are human beings in the entire world.
Through inventing my own processes with handmade paper, embroidery, pig intestine, hair and other materials, I look realistically at the world, investigating microscopic processes, fecundity, infestations, parasitism, chaos and disorder. This work was produced with the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council.
- Heather Komus