The project "DNA barcoding to prevent the insect apocalypse - a project at the intersection of Arts and Science" combines artistic, scientific and popularisation goals. The aim is to raise awareness about the rapid decline of the number of insects in the world caused by human activities - an urgent problem, also known as the Insect Apocalypse.
The project will include a week and a half field trip around Sweden to visit places where insect traps are located, and the volunteers who collect samples from the traps. The traps are located in diverse ecosystems, harbouring different insect communities. The second part of the stay will be spent at the Natural History Museum in Stockholm for laboratory work. This will include sorting insects into microplates, DNA extraction and PCR amplification. Participation in the research will be an inspiration and material for creative work of the artists. Cooperation with artists will provide a fresh perspective on their work to the scientists.

Malaise trap for collecting insects

Scientists take on an art project - Ela and meike
We invited two visual artists – a French-Polish duo: Anna Siekierska and Damien Brailly – who work at the interface of art and science and are eager to learn more about our work at the Naturhistoriska through getting involved in the actual research.
The artists will meet volunteers who collect insect samples for the IBA, learn about our insect biodiversity work, and the scientific process in general. Furthermore, they will get a chance to visit the entomological collection and interact with other researchers at the Museum. 
Their contribution to the laboratory part of the project will be sorting insects into microplates and assist in further DNA extraction and PCR amplification steps. The finale of the project will be to run in-house sequencing on a MinION machine together. This sequencing method is particularly well suited for science communication and outreach because it is a small desktop device which shows sequencing happening in real time.

Microplate with sorted insects in lysis buffer.

Artistic take on a science project - Anna and Damien
The IBA research project is discovering many insects not yet known to humans. It also shows that many insects have likely ceased to exist due to human activities before they were discovered. We intend to create a spatial video installation combining sculptures, photography, video and  animation (examples of previous projects to the left). The whole installation will be a contribution to critical reflection on climate and environmental changes ant the related Insect Apocalypse, as well as on the paradox of this technique that needs to kill insects in the aim to preserve them. 
Anna: A series of sculptures will speculate about those insects we do not know yet and about those we will never see again. I will be inspired by the rich collections of the Natural History Museum, scientific knowledge about the physiology and functioning of insects. Some of them will gain super powers that could protect them from rising temperatures, concentrations of pesticides and pollutants. The idea of Dark Ecology developed by Timothy Morton stimulates my artistic research. According to it, I will focus on those beings that are marginalised, invisible, ugly (not pretty and uncharismatic), Mutated. Beings for whom we have little empathy because it is very difficult to get close to the way they perceive and experience the world. The strangeness and dissimilarity of insect bodies often cause people to feel disgust and monstrosity. Building relationships with insects is a demanding challenge, essential to the well-being of life on Earth.
Damien: The video will be a visual essay about the diversity of insects’ life and the environments they inhabit. We will interview volunteers that take care of those traps and who have their own interesting observations and adventures while working on the project. We will show laboratory work and insect collections of the Natural History Museum.
This work was produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.
Meike Latz was supported by a research grant (34442) from VILLUM FONDEN.
Back to Top