LIVE/WORK, charitably unconscious


Several panels of plexiglass hang from the ceiling in succession, filled with layers of coloured gels, and inhabited by worker ants: this is the installation LIVE / WORK by Brad Tormel. The artist’s experiment consists of testing the ability of the ants to cooperate in an extremely comfortable situation. The ants are all immersed in a highly nutritious substance. What will the industrious insects do after building their house of delicious interconnected tunnels? It transpires that they do not do much else but continue to neatly accumulate food reserves, most of the time autonomously, following repeated, solitary paths, despite the other stimuli provoked by the artist. But this is only the first step of the research, which charts a more complex narrative. Without knowing it, the ants are the stars of a charity race: the winner will be the ant farm that has accumulated most food. But the prize is not for the community of the lovely insects. The colours chosen for the gel in the panels identify the competing beneficiaries: they are groups of existing NGOs selected by the artist, who will be donated part of the proceeds of the exhibition. The operation is clearly not a mere exercise in crowdfunding. The process of the unconscious donating is perhaps paralleling the current structure of our digital experience. Like the ants in the coloured gels, in our everyday life it has become usual for us to indulge in a cotton wool world of information customized to our interests, partly resulting from the continuous tracking of our daily web activity. Almost as if it were extremely tiring to move away from these predetermined paths, we give our private lives to charity everyday in the form of data assets, which weigh dramatically in the budgets of those who offer services and facilities. Chiara Ciociola