Saturday, October 09, 2010

The bestiary discovers my roots: word beasts 3

It was obvious to me after the snakes that there had to be more. A bestiary was on its way. It was a matter of choosing who it would contain and what words they would be made of. I thought about the beasties I like, that I hadn’t already made word beasts of. With my photography, I’d developed obsessions with certain animals, with dragonflies, mushrooms, fireflies, lorises, mongooses, and so on. I decided to pick one of my perhaps much too photographed subjects. Someone had recently said to me that ‘Oecophylla rock!’, and they certainly had been one of my obsessions, so Oecophylla it would be. The red weaver ant and I have other history as well, so it made sense.
So what would my ant be made of? I figured it should be made of words about ants, and I figured the best ones would be the words of the hundreds upon hundreds of scientists who have worked on these ants. As social insects they get some of the best scientific press out there and have been fascinating (and sometimes discomfiting) to everyone from Darwin onwards. There would be no dearth of words on ants. So I collected a whole series of abstracts from scientific papers on ants and plugged them into wordle to make me some word sheets to work with.
It all seemed very poetic when I thought about how we as scientists make a conceptual ant in our minds, in scientific literature; an ant that has existence in our traffic alone, outside the real world of the ant itself. And how my ant was an ant reconstituted from our conceptual ant, the ant of scientific communication. This was the first result based on one of my photographs.

ant_only copy

It was a bit bland, needed something to stand on and a background so I provided one that looked as natural as possible; like vegetation bokeh in the background of a photograph.

ant flat copy

Now, I could have stopped there, but it somehow felt not enough. It was beautiful, to my eyes anyway. Every little piece of that ant is built from the word sheets wordle made. Including the lovely elbowed antennae. The work to make these is long, but it gives you what must be a taxonomist’s pleasure in dwelling over every detail of their anatomy. Yet not enough.
But when I thought of Escher and his ants, and made him a homage, it was finally enough.

ant_mobius white copy


Anush Shetty said...

Lovely again. I should try something like this with Migrantwatch data too. It is just awesome.

Natasha said...

:) Thanks Anush, send me a mail offline and tell me what you have in mind. I'd be happy to do something for MigrantWatch.

PS. heard about OpenEcology at YETI, it seems like a really nice project. Good luck with it!

Karthik said...

Hi Natasha,
I stumbled upon your blog ! the word-beast idea seems brilliant to me, and the images do capture the sense of awe and wonder that I guess they were intended to portray ! Btw, I have your book 'Secret lives' too and want to congratulate you on your work !

Natasha said...

Thanks Kartik, I'm glad you enjoyed both.

molarbear's posts said...

Lovely concept, though I still like the first image better! How do we meet? Email me...when are you back in Bangalore? =Deepa

Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

Good one... All the best!