Sander heezen 2019

Tiny Love Songs (All our futures are scalable)

29th August – 1st September

Into the Great Wide Open Festival – Vlieland, Holland

Tiny Love Songs is a nocturnal sound and light installation that has a scientific inspiration; a genetically modified mosquito (Friendly Mosquito TM – aka Aedes aegypti) which has been released globally in countries including Brazil, Cayman Islands, Malaysia, to attempt to halt the spread of viruses such as Zika, Dengue etc. that cause great harm to human health in these areas.

On the hour, starting at 6 in the evening, as the light falls, a 3 minute love song is played from the array of sculptures installed on the pine trees. The light flickers and builds as the sound work grows in intensity.

What the audiences hears is a layered composition developed with composer Bill Thompson that simulates for the human ear, the mating behaviour of the mosquito. Based on research into the changes of frequency as the insects adjust their wing beat speed, the sound produced simulates the method by which male and female mate as they couple together like two dancers. The work is an event in which light and sound slowly builds to a crescendo, before the audience and the forest are abruptly plunged into darkness.

The title of the work Tiny Love Song, relates directly to the tragic life of this post natural mosquito. The human designed organism is intended to be anti-evolutionary, due to a genetic modification which means that the offspring of the Friendly Mosquito do not live, and so, the cycle of their lives ends.

We were interested in how audiences might respond to this sound and light based work, a love song in the context of a musical festival that has a deep environmental connection. 

Through our research into the subject, we acknowledge that we can celebrate the human made mosquito as a biomedical advance that halts the spread of deadly pathogens as disease. Nonetheless, we were also made aware that this happens through the planned local extinction of a species for which we have little emotional attachment, except perhaps fear and loathing. 

And so the work asks of the viewer, who is looking after the natural species, what are the ethical issues of such advances, and who is controlling the release of such organisms?

The work therefore reflects upon the academic proposition that the future of this tiny insect is scalable as a narrative, and as such,  the messy outcomes of our lives, our designs and intentions, are not predictable.  If we are to consider all possible futures, for all species and at all scales, as artists, researchers, clinicians, or even as a species, we need to draw attention not only to these post natural developments, their governance and control, but remain attentive sensorially to the messages we receive from the world around us, aware of different life cycles and rhythms as they change.

As an artwork, the marking of the hour and the passing of time that happens between the hourly event itself also intends to mark the collapse in numbers of many winged insects in Europe, on which we rely and with whose lives are our own futures are intertwined. 

The work was created by Office of Experiments, led by Neal White, working with Engineer Erik Kearney, and composer Bill Thompson. Our sincere thanks to our installer on the ground, Sjoerd, to Alice and to all those involved in the academic, electronics and sound research, and to the festival and zone2source for commissioning the work in the first place.

Exploring Vlieland with other artist at Here Comes the Summer in Vlieland – May 2019