[ TRACKS SERIES, 2011 ]

CUSTOM ELECTRONIC BEETLE BACKPACK, BESS BEETLE, LONG EXPOSURE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS

The Track Series is an exploratory body of work comprised of photographic, videographic, and motion capture images, and rapid prototyped sculpture mapping the habitual travel patterns of bess beetles. In order to accurately capture such patterns the bess beetles are each affixed with their own trackable “backpack.” These are made from a self-adhesive hook and loop fastener, a small watch battery, and variable light-emitting diodes. Due to the beetle’s necessity to constantly burrow and make tunnels through hard woods, such as oak, elm, and other deciduous trees, these beetles have a unique, brute strength unrivaled by many other organisms. This allows them to carry their illuminated backpacks with little hindrance respecting their motion. This project is conceptually rooted to the notions of emergence, travel, and the revealing of formerly unrecognized path making. Additionally, it furthers the author’s persistent desire to  collaborate (albeit uninvitedly) with insects.

This research-based project focuses on patterns and voyage paths made by Bess beetles (Odontotaenius disjunctus), classified under the insect order Coleptera. Bess beetles are an imperative species that aid in the decomposition of waste and dead vegetation, specifically within forests. They are an insect commonly found in decaying logs from Texas to Florida and as far north as Canada. Arguably similar to humans and human societal systems, Bess beetles live in pairs within a colony and are a semi-social insect. They pair for with one other beetle and share housekeeping and larval care over 14-16-month period of time. They are also able to communicate through acoustic signals. Most importantly, they travel in and outside of their ‘homes’, which are excavated galleries and tunnels within rotting timber, to feed and to care for their young. Their external travel (outside of the interior of their log homes) and pattern making have thus become the basis of this research-based series of photographic work.

The beetles were carefully introduced into various wooded environments in Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin after they were affixed with the LED ‘backpack’. Using a Nikon D700, and remote shutter, the beetles was tracked both individually and in groups via long exposure taken between the hours of 10:00pm and 3:00am central standard time. Each beetle (sometimes grouping of beetles) was photographed for a minimum of 3 hours. Each beetle wearing a different color LED ‘backpack’ denotes groups of beetle movements. The current results of the Tracks Series experiments and research are presented as digital photographs.

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