I had intended to attend this exhibition as a study day, but ‘Seduced by Art’ got in the way; I was especially looking forward to the interaction between students and that was missing when I finally got to the gallery to see Jo Whaley’s ‘The Theater of Insects’. Having read the essay a while ago and now refreshing my memory of it post viewing the prints I’m not awfully sure how much I got from these disparate prints.
One of the key first impressions was the differentials in the mounting (an apposite description of these images of dead insects) of the prints; some small, some medium sized, some large, some individually framed and some collected and encased. There was also the variability in how these dead insects were ‘pinned’ some had very clear and pronounced pins, some were completely missing and I wondered whether they had had their pins ‘photoshopped’ out of the image. Whaley talks in her essay here about breathing life into these long mortified ‘still-deads’, she talks of how the ‘studio is quite small just a few inches by a few inches, and yet she enlarges them to about (human) head size in order to ‘The viewer thus confronts the insect on a one-to-one relationship, as an equal, calling into question the perceived human dominance over nature’. I can’t say that I agree with this notion, each, or at least the vast majority of them, of these dead insects are viewed from directly overhead – as if they, the insects, were at our mercy – some already had visible signs of our (the viewers) dominance skewered through their carapace or thorax. A couple of the images seem to work from a purely aesthetic perspective, but I struggled to complete the circle of concept through to image. The insects looked dead, memento mori, hovering above constructs that had tonal references and in some cases structural references; but overall I found it a bit of a jumble.