Her creations, which include a stop-motion animation, are the result of an artist’s residency that Farmer began at the Museum in June this year, where, rather than grappling with more popular exhibits such as dinosaurs or other larger mammals, she used the opportunity to explore the museum’s vast collections of insects, and worked with experts within the Department of Entomology. This passion for insects is a recurring theme within Farmer’s work, which has previously seen her create highly intricate still-lifes involving insect “fairies” pitched against other creatures in dramatic battle scenes.
At the Natural History Museum she narrowed her research to the study of the parasitic wasp, an insect that invades and devours other creatures in order to survive and prosper. This offered a rich source for a new tribe of particularly blood-thirsty fairies, who appear within a sculptural installation at the museum depicting the terrifying scene of Farmer’s fairies clinically conquering a stuffed fox, who appears powerless to their attack.
The wasp-fairies, constructed using plant roots and insect wings, then reappear in a number of pseudo-scientific drawings produced by Farmer during the residency, as well as within her most ambitious work here, an animation developed in collaboration with Sean Daniels. In an echo of Gothic or Victorian folk tales, the stop-motion film shows the mischievious fairies behind the scenes in the Museum’s storage areas, where they wreak their unique form of amusing yet grisly havoc away from the public eye.
Little Savages, on show until January 28, 2008 at the Museum, proves how the combination of scientific research with a vivid, artistic imagination can offer interesting perspectives on natural history, and ideas of preservation and taxidermy, as well as bring new delight to the often-overlooked world of insects.