In Search of Self-Perception, Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, Wellington May/June 2010

I found and cared for stick insects over several months and had thirty or so in my care at the time of the exhibition. The project was developed with a colleague, Dr Steve Trewick, a researcher at the Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North. As a result of this relationship, the work tested a theory about the insects’ awareness of their camouflage properties, i.e. are they aware of how they look?

In the Hirschfeld Gallery we observed how two forms of stick insects moved around the vivarium in relation to the plants contained in it, and whether they attempted to remain on the plants that best camouflaged them. Despite evolutionary predictions, it is not known whether clusters of stick insects (which can be variable in colour and texture) result from the insects choosing plants that best conceal them (self perception) or the alternative, that cluster composition is a result of unconcealed insects falling prey to predators (predator perception).

The work consisted of two forms of stick insects (Clitarchus hookeri & Acanthoxyla) and three types of plants. Clusters of Clitarchus hookerii are often found on teatree, the Acanthoxyla on conifers, but both will eat Pohutukawa.

The vivarium structure makes reference to the minimalist cube and the exhibition plinth and is clearly divided in half. At the start of the exhibition, the insects were placed in the half that did not have their plant preference. Once a day the insects’ locations were recorded on a graph on an adjacent wall.

The observation was inconclusive with the insects tending to be located on the pohutukawa plants, on which none of them were originally found.

review of show here


In Search of Self-Perception, Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, Wellington May/June 2010

I found and cared for stick insects over several months and had thirty or so in my care at the time of the exhibition. The project was developed with a colleague, Dr Steve Trewick, a researcher at the Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North. As a result of this relationship, the work tested a theory about the insects’ awareness of their camouflage properties, i.e. are they aware of how they look?

In the Hirschfeld Gallery we observed how two forms of stick insects moved around the vivarium in relation to the plants contained in it, and whether they attempted to remain on the plants that best camouflaged them. Despite evolutionary predictions, it is not known whether clusters of stick insects (which can be variable in colour and texture) result from the insects choosing plants that best conceal them (self perception) or the alternative, that cluster composition is a result of unconcealed insects falling prey to predators (predator perception).

The work consisted of two forms of stick insects (Clitarchus hookeri & Acanthoxyla) and three types of plants. Clusters of Clitarchus hookerii are often found on teatree, the Acanthoxyla on conifers, but both will eat Pohutukawa.

The vivarium structure makes reference to the minimalist cube and the exhibition plinth and is clearly divided in half. At the start of the exhibition, the insects were placed in the half that did not have their plant preference. Once a day the insects’ locations were recorded on a graph on an adjacent wall.

The observation was inconclusive with the insects tending to be located on the pohutukawa plants, on which none of them were originally found.

review of show here