Sunday, 11 November 2012

Anophthalmus hitleri

One of my illustrations is currently hanging in an exhibition in Slovenia based around the rare beetle Anophthalmus hitleri. The beetle was given an unfortunate name and the species has paid for it almost to the point of extinction, This exhibition ('Situation Anophthalmus hitleri') highlights the negative impact that man can have on the natural world through subtle means such as naming a species. 
Various artists and illustrators, including entomologists, were asked to depict the beetle in a dorsal view, but only creating the image from the latin Anophthalmus hitleri name, to show how our perceptions can be so easily influenced. My illustration is in the bottom right corner of the above image, The general body shape represents a WW2 bomb and the patterns in the texture of the beetle's elytra form a swastika:
[Pen & Ink - A4]

The exhibition is on until December 1st, and will possibly touring to other counties in the future. There is a Slovenian TV news report in the following link:

Publicity for the exhibition:
Jasmina Cibic’s projects are conceived as a type of gesamtkunstwerk, embracing variations of delegated performance and delegated object-making, combining works by specialist practitioners such as architects and scientists, as well as factories and craftsmen, chosen for their historical and contextual relevance.
In her new project, Cibic investigates two key moments within the construction and survival of national icons and their myths, namely their invention and the chosen (architectonic) dispositive that channels their perception by the spectator.
The artist conceived this project for the city of Maribor during its year as European Capital of Culture specifically for its main underground exhibition space. As is often the case with such events, countries are compelled to present local specificities and ethnic diversities as both unique and benign. Focusing on various historic moments and their part in national myth making and its presentation, Cibic critiques the drive toward new assemblages of critically devoid faux icons of national export, where historical baggage and nouvelle cultural identity constructions are far from resolved.
The project begins with the story of the discovery of one of Slovenia’s endemic species, Anophthalmus hitleri, a cave beetle which has recently entered the endangered species list solely because of its name. Discovered in 1933 and named by an admirer of Hitler in 1937, this blind beetle marks an un-erasable ideological moment as, according to the rules of Linnaean taxonomy, animal and plant names cannot be changed.
In 2006, National Geographic magazine published an article on the insect and, soon after, prices for hitleri began to soar, resulting in this small blind creature coming close to extinction.
Cibic has worked with over forty international entomologists and scientific illustrators, including associates of The Natural Museum in London, the US Department of Agriculture, the Zoological Museum at Tel Aviv University, and others, who produced illustrations of the hitleri beetle. The artist instructed the scientists to base their work solely on their experience in entomology and their interpretation of the beetle’s Latin name, without consulting any visual or descriptive reference. The final works will be presented as an integral part of Cibic’s underground installation as an encyclopedic-like display.
Situation Anophthalmus hitleri forms an installation environment where actual hitleri beetles are presented within a series of models of the modernist pavilions for trade fairs designed by Vinko Glanz, the chief protocol architect of post-war Yugoslavia. The models were realised in crystal by the Slovene company Rogaška, from the historical archives of their product moulds. This company has been a major producer of national souvenirs and protocol gifts for decades and is one of the few that managed to survive the various political systems in this country.
Glanz was the chosen government protocol architect in former Yugoslavia and as such, an architect who realised most of the ‘translations’ of the architecture of previous regimes in the country. His renovation and rebuilding projects included Tito’s residences in Bled (Vila Bled) and on the Brioni Islands, The People’s Assembly (today the Slovene Parliament) and Grad Brdo, the government’s main venue for diplomatic meetings. Because of the nature of his work, Glanz remained practically unpublished and very little of his work is to be found in the state archives.
A few years ago, various plans and texts were discovered among his legacy, including a stenographic record of the Committee for the Review of Artistic Works and Sculptures in the new palace of the National Assembly, which he built in post-war Ljubljana. The transcript is of a discussion between politicians and art historians who, together with the architect, debate which artists should be chosen to carry out the mosaics, frescoes and sculptures on the portal of the building, that were to represent the nation.
The transcript is the basis for a film script which Cibic wrote with Ken Pratt, an essayist and curator of contemporary art, and Brian Fillis, a British scriptwriter whose work includes drama and film scripts for Channel 4, the BBC and others. Filming took place at Vila Bled on exactly the same date as the aforementioned political debate on art and architecture began 55 years ago. The short film will be projected within the installation, presenting the unresolved dialogue between art and architecture and questioning their mutual implications within the formation of national iconography that is echoed in our contemporary condition.

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