She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (luna), 2019

a project with Faith La Rocque for Moire’s Catwalk

Date: 8 July 2019

Thank you to all of our guests, particularly David Beadle and Taylor Leedahl for sharing their knowledge, and to Aryen Hoekstra and Chris Stopa.

She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (Luna) took place on 8 July 2019. Influenced by the Luna moth (Actias luna), the aim of this evening event was to embody a more sympathetic relationship to lepidoptera. We created UV and mercury bulb light sculptures to attract moths to our gathering.  Guests included members of the High Park Moth Study, landscape architects, a florist, artists, naturalists, and curators.

The event commenced with a welcome libation while encouraging everyone to turn off their phones to (potentially) reduce electromagnetic frequencies/radiation (EMF/EMR) which are posited to interfere with pollinator navigation. Happily, everyone agreed. We followed with a site acknowledgment and an informal collaborative drawing activity in pairs. Using various field guides, including the Peterson Field Guide to Insects of North America , one person verbally described an insect while another drew it based solely on the communicated description (i.e. without ever seeing it); after, the participants switched roles. Eating followed drawing. We served a green, planty-dinner grown by local farmers and moonshine cocktails infused with bee-balm from the garden. For dessert we ate artisanal bergamot ice cream made by Faith’s partner, Chris. As dusk settled, Ella read The Man-Moth, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop inspired by a typo, a slip in communication: Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for “mammoth”. The poem follows the title character’s attempt to scale the walls of the sky on his way to the moon.

After dark, our group donned silver thermal safety ponchos and congregated around the light sculptures to begin observing our moth visitors. Enveloped

within this protective cocoon of reflective material, the ponchos were intended to open lines of sympathetic communication between our human guests and the light-sensitive moths. This material is also sometimes worn by internet-proponents to ward off EMF/EMR.

David Beadle and Taylor Leedahl of the High Park Moth Study group acted as our guides in identifying the various moth species who appeared.

Link to an associated Luna Reader.

She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (Vanessa), 2017

A collaborative research project & installation with Faith La Rocque, featuring theremin and live butterflies (Vanessa cardui a.k.a. painted lady butterflies)

documentation by Colin Miner for Moire’s Catwalk

Date: 10 September 2017

Thank you to the following for sharing their time and knowledge: Staff at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory; Cheryl Tyndall, curator of the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory; Antonia Guidotti, entomologist at the Royal Ontario Museum; Jennifer Carpenter, professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto; Clara Venice, musician and performing artist; and Chris Stopa.

Is it possible for humans and butterflies to communicate?
If a butterfly could activate a theremin, would the sound produced express something about flight (as action) or the butterfly’s experience?

How does a theremin work?

Does a butterfly have enough mass to produce a sound from a theremin?

Would a particular type of butterfly be better-suited than another (based on size/mass or flight pattern)?

What is the optimal environment for both the theremin and the butterfly to function together?

How do butterflies move?

How do butterflies behave?

How do butterflies reproduce?

What poses a threat to butterflies and how do they defend themselves?

What substances do butterflies like the most?

Is it possible to attract butterflies to the theremin or is an enclosure needed to ensure proximity?

At what range can a theremin function?

How do you calibrate a theremin?

What makes an ideal butterfly enclosure?

How are butterflies transported?

What should be considered re: butterfly safety and care for the duration of the project?

What environmental/ecological issues are associated with captive-reared butterflies and butterfly release?

What physical effect(s) might the theremin have on the butterflies?
When should the event be scheduled?
What time of day is best?

Should we serve refreshments? If so, what?

What flowers should we plant?

Who should we invite?

Will people show up?

What is the title?

How much information should be included on the invitation?

How many people can the roof support before it caves in?

Is it safe for children?

Should we make viewing shifts?

Do we leave the front door unlocked?

Are the stairs too inaccessible?

Will my landlord be upset?

Should I invite the neighbours?

What if it rains?

Will it be too hot? Too cold?

How can we provide shade?

Where do we get a theremin?

How much would it cost to rent a theremin?

Where can we obtain butterflies?

Will the butterflies arrive on time?

How should we document the event?

1)   The butterflies activated the theremin and produced sounds
2)   Over the course of the test (approximately 3 hours) the butterflies seemed to be gathering mainly around the bottom of the enclosure, rather than perching on the mesh and plants, or flying around. Perhaps they needed more time to awaken from their quiescent state, or were not in good health to begin with; perhaps the enclosure was flawed in some way; or maybe the temperature was too hot or the weather conditions too breezy for them?

3)   The theremin responded to the butterflies, however if humans came close to the enclosure their mass would override the butterflies’ interaction with the instrument

4)   Two of the butterflies escaped: one as we were transferring them into the enclosure and the other as we moved them out of the enclosure. This was accidental, as we intended to follow conservation practices that captive-reared butterflies shouldn’t be released into a local ecosystem.

5)   Since we planned to not release the butterflies, we fashioned a larger screened enclosure for them in one of Ella’s garden beds. When Ella went to check on our subjects the following day, they had been killed by a swarm of wasps that managed to find a way in.

Link to a conversation reflecting upon the event’s observations, aftereffects, and future between Faith & Ella.