I saw an exhibition of little bugs that were dead, but not tortured. No pins stuck through their little bodies. The artist collects dead bugs. They’re dead when she finds them. She uses them to look at creation, or something, I guess. I didn’t read the brochure, so it’s just my take.
It’s funny how language changes, isn’t it. I remember the first time someone asked me “what’s your take on whatever”? I didn’t know what they were talking about. “What’s my take? What does that mean? What’s a take? I don’t have a ‘take’.” So they rephrased. “What’s your opinion”? I remember that little frisson of irritation one gets when one is first confronted with the bastardisation of this perfectly beautiful language. But, then one finds oneself caught up in the bastardisation and saying things like, “that’s my take on that”. I actually feel quite guilty. But you can’t fight the zeitgeist of voguish parlance. As they used to say in my day “fit in or f*** off”! On this point I find it more expedient to fit in. And that’s my take on that.
Anyway, back to the bugs. Their dead bodies were pressed, with a press; so they were hard pressed onto white blotting paper. The exhibition was of the imprint, not the actual bug. Was it fascinating? At first I didn’t think so. I thought it was perverse. I mean who wants to look at embossed crushed bugs?
I was at Circa. I don’t even remember the name of the artist. I just dropped in, the way one does, because I was passing and had a bit of time and thought, ‘let me just drop in at Circa since its here and see what’s exhibiting’.
Those little bugs, the delicate ones like butterflies and moths made colour imprints on the paper and dented it to various extents, so that you could see image of the wing, head, body and etcetera. The flies looked like embossed imprints of flies, as though the press couldn’t crush them. One could see the intricacies of some bugs, the veins on the butterflies and the multi faceted almost unrecognisable peculiarity of the scorpion. Some transferred iridescence onto the paper. Some left little bits of ‘flesh’, or whatever the bug equivalent is. It was fascinating.
The result of this exhibition was that I thought of our relationship to bugs. Our most immediate instinct on seeing one is to kill it. Well, not the Zen people, but ordinary people like you and me who think that bugs have no place in our environment and who don’t want to share space with anything that buzzes. You buzz. You die. You crawl over the carpet and freak me out. You die. But why?
Bugs are complex organisms too. I wouldn’t kill a lion, so why would I not hesitate to kill a christmas beetle, or a buzzing fly, or a spider? It’s not that I engage in a life style of bugslaughter, but the best way for a spider to live is to remain unseen by me. I can’t. I simply can’t. And no, I can’t collect it in a jar and pour it out of the window. I’m not made that way. I have to spray it. If I don’t spray it I’ll go mad. I can’t be in the same room as a spider. Call me un-Zen if you will, but that’s just the way it is. I confess. I’m a killer. Pray for me.
But this exhibition really gave pause to my certainty about killing bugs. The delicate strength of the imprints was lionesque. (Is lionesque a word?) It’s a different kind of strength, but it’s a strength to be respected. Perhaps that’s it. It’s about respect. One crushes a bug because one doesn’t respect it. But I think my relationship to spiders denotes respect. I fear spiders. That’s a kind of respect, isn’t it, fear?
Once, I came home late at night and walked into my bedroom, and there, above the bed, as big as my hand was a fat, hairy brown spider. I switched of the light and walked out. I didn’t have bug spray. I looked everywhere. I opened the door again and it was still there, as comfortable as you please, right above my head board. I knew it was in for the duration. What to do? I thought of sleeping on the sofa, but what if it came into the lounge? Spiders can fit under doors. I decided I couldn’t. It was huge. I pressed my panic button and alerted the security company. It wasn’t inappropriate. It’s a panic button. I was panicking. When they called I said there was an intruder. Those guys are so sweet. They’re from CorTac. When they came I told them about the spider. They laughed at me. They weren’t at all annoyed. They collected it in a glass and set it free in the garden. I threw the glass away. I can’t share a glass with a spider.
It’s survival of the fittest. Isn’t that nature’s law? So are Zen and nature different? Zen people are vegans, but the nutritionist told me to eat red meat. I’m a God ordained carnivore; or, at least, nutritionist ordained. So does that mean that I can never have a Zen spirit? I’m a Lioness with a judicious dollop of arachnophobia. You wouldn’t tell a lioness to eat only veggies, would you? Or rather I think I’ll identify as a Panteress, or a Jaguaress. They’re more beautiful and sleek and sexy. It’s a fantasy. I can be anything I want.
Anyway, for all the inspiration of the exhibition and the beauty of God’s little creatures and their complexity and their delicate embossed images and all that, at the end of the day they’re still bugs, aren’t they? Beautiful and fascinating as the embossed image is, I still won’t share space with a spider, and a buzzing flying thing is singing songs of meeting it’s maker.
It’s a jungle up in here. Survival of the fittest. It’s my world.