Ant Works

It’s always amazed me how careful and disciplined insects can be. One of the many wonders I saw when visiting the tropical Gulf coast of Mexico were leaf-cutter ants. Up here in Canada (Toronto), ants don’t do much except crawl around and occasionally make an anthill. Leaf cutters make Canadian ants look primitive.

Although leaf-cutters can probably be a problem when they decide to remove all the leaves off a tree you’d like to keep, they can be quite inspiring when you consider how tiny they are, and what enormous achievements they can make just by being cooperative. The Block Wave distortion filter from showFoto and the digiKam project, makes me feel I’ve harnessed a colony of digital ants to dig and chew old images into astounding new things.

This image resized to 600×800 and zapped with Block Wave, default settings, gets the above image

Perhaps, “harnessed” is not the right word. Unleashed is a more accurate one. The ants march to the beat of their own drum, their own set of instructions, which I rarely understand, but gradually learn to work with.

And to appreciate. Nothing is more pleasant than to be able to just watch insects work away without the fear that they might be threatening you. Well, actually, I suppose there is something more pleasant than that: it’s the expectation that they’re working for you, creating something of such curious appearance, that you could never even begin to imagine, much less produce on your own.

I think the label “artist” is an offense to the great machineries that make these things. These block-wave ant-drawings are more than the results of human effort. I think of it as a digital beekeeping. There’s the hive, and here’s the honey. I slide a blank sheet of digital paper into the hive, and the bees do their thing. Later, I take it out and either start all over again or save it, as is. I don’t change a thing. How can you sweeten honey?

Tim Hodkinson

Technorati Tags:

How comments work: After the approval of your very first comment you will be able to post future comments immediately to any posting. Any username or fictitious email is good enough.

One thought on “Ant Works

  1. Hmmm. Maybe you’re on to something.


    “Ever wondered how ants find their way straight to the uncovered food in your kitchen? Now scientists have discovered how the humble wood ant navigates over proportionally huge distances, using just very poor eyesight and confusing and changing natural landmarks. The research could have significant benefits in the development of autonomous robots and in furthering our understanding of basic animal learning processes.”

    So which came first — the ant or the filter/robot?

    And that second sentence in the quote describes my artistic process pretty well.

Comments are closed.