I finally started to work on Antworks, the video I shot last year but didn’t finish. Frankly, it’s great to have a break from the ant war. The carnage is getting to me.
I’m shooting the finale. The middle is a time-lapse sequence where the ants strip a tree and the end is an art show of the pieces they cut. The clippings look like Abstract Expressionists paintings – maybe a Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, or a Rothko.
I want the ants to walk, one at a time on the stone stage and present their artwork. I can imagine Jerry Saltz and the judges of Bravo’s art reality show deciding which ant made the best painting. The size, shape, color…
It should be a simple scene to shoot, but this is my fifth try. The stone I found on the beach proved to be too slippery. It was comical to see the ants struggle to walk under the weight of their work. After applying a little wax they now run too fast. This morning I scrapped most of it off. Each time I change the surface I alter the ant’s scent trail. They reach the stage and act as if the lights have suddenly been turned off. To retrain them to feel comfortable on center stage I entice them with plants they like and discourage them with leaf litter, which is the equivalent of throwing the Himalayas in their path.
Next problem - there are too many ants on the catwalk at once. I’m working with a fairly large colony (I call the Neo colony because it wasn’t there last year) and ants tend to do things in mass. Getting an ant to do anything alone is hard work.
This morning I created a detour around the stage by making a two-lane highway system. My goal is to divert about 50% of the outgoing ants and 100% of the returnees who come back from the forest with dull, dried leaves. It hasn’t rained here since December. Their efforts would surely be voted off the show in the first round.
For the half that comes my way I offer them leaves that contain nearly every color found on a painter’s palette, with elegant strips to rival Sean Scully and enough spots to make Damien Hirst jealous.
As soon as the ants emerge from their afternoon nap I’ll see if my plans have worked. Watching the ant’s parade with pieces of vegetation they have expertly cut into tiny artworks is as satisfying as a good afternoon in Chelsea.
Attached is a video still and a picture of the set.
P.S. As I type this a puma just walked 40 yards from my set. The monkeys are screaming. Got to go.