“The Island is what we travel around. The Island is like an egg” – René Malaise
luna moths (live), houseplant, water spritzers, ass-las and ass-lad (200 page exhibition catalogue with no beginning and two back ends) installation view 'Elective Affinities', MFA Graduate Show, University California San Diego, 2014
During research for the Malaise project we made friends with Larry from Bioquip, America's largest entomology supply store. We started to refer to Bioquip as the "Atlantis" of bug biology supplies.
Larry gave me some luna moth cocoons, which I raised and hatched in my bedroom. Sleeping alongside these delicate, metamorphosing creatures during their final instar stage was a rare and intimate privilege. Larry also gave us a catalogue that listed all of Bioquip's products, including several versions of the now-ubiquitous Malaise trap. This catalogue became the model for our book 'ass-las and ass-lad', a big messy compendium of the notes, documents and shrapnel that we collected during our expedition to Atlantis. The book is called ass-lass and ass-lad because it's an atlas that has no beginning and two back ends (the contents page is in the middle).
Growing up my favourite poem was The Jumblies by Edward Lear. This poem is about a group of small people with green heads and blue hands who go to sea in a sieve, visit at an island, undergo various transformations and return to tell the tale. I just realised now (and I'm writing this seven years after the fact) that our search for Atlantis, which involved using a Malaise trap as our main mode of transport, was a lot like going to sea in a sieve.
When it came to my graduate thesis show we had already shown the Malaise film several times, including at Bioquip, where a significant earthquake occurred during our talk. It felt like our film and the earth were in dialogue together in a way which no longer directly involved us, and in that sense the project had completed itself. So for our thesis group show, which was called Elective Affinities, I decided to release the luna moths into the gallery as a celebration. The moths were invited to the exhibition opening and they explored the ass-las, the ass-lad and the other works in the exhibition, free to leave at their own discretion.