In 2003 I was invited to carry out a residency in Montpellier, in the Villa Olga. The villa is a small house built in the 19th century by a wealthy businessman for his mistress, whose name the house still bears. This work was developed in response to spending time in this space, and installed in Olga’s salon.

It comprised 180 wineglasses set at eye level, each one filled to brimming with water so they acted as lenses. Behind the glasses were fixed around 200 dead flying ant queens which were only visible through the lens of water. A soundtrack of the resonant sound made by running a finger around the rim of a wineglass filled the space, reminiscent of the sound of insect wings. Daylight and bright artificial light revealed the optical qualities of the brimming glasses, and in the evenings live insects were attracted into the gallery space.

As I was developing this work I wrote:

“Each dusk they come, regular as clockwork. Winged ant queens are swarming into the gallery space where I am working and setting up the show, Olga’s old salon where she would have entertained her lover, now bare and whitewashed. The insects line up in a crack in the wall behind the radiator, waiting for some signal I can’t detect. Their tiny black heads gleam like a row of beads, antennae feeling the air. Finally they set out, marching single file up the wall heading for the bright, hot, halogen light in the centre of the ceiling. They launch their heavy egg-laden bodies improbably, hopefully, longingly, lungeing drunkenly towards the light. Romantically doomed insects, they exist only to find a mate. All of them will lose their wings in a day or so, most will die, a few will survive long enough to found new colonies and live out their days underground.

Most of them hit the light with a tiny, barely audible buzz, and fall to the floor.”

180 wineglasses, glass shelf, flying ant queens, water, sound, 2003.

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