Illustration for article titled This Weird Video Installation Shows How Cosmic Dung Beetles Really Are

What do you get when you combine a planetarium projector and footage of dung beetles? If you're video artist Diana Thater, you get a science lesson as well as a meditation on how humans disrupt other forms of life on this planet without even meaning to.


Top image via David Zwirner Gallery

Thater's new video installation, "Science, Fiction," has two rooms: the first includes a big glowing blue rectangle (pictured above) which seems to float off the ground with an unearthly yellow light. Above the rectangle is projected footage of dung beetles crawling out of the muck. In the other room, a Zeiss star projector borrowed from the Griffith Observatory's planetarium shows stars moving around — and the projector looks sort of like a spacecraft.


What's the connection between the dung beetles and the stars? The New York Times explains:

A gallery news release explains that scientists have learned that dung beetles navigate at night by the stars of the Milky Way. If the sky is blocked, they wander aimlessly. Ms. Thater is obliquely addressing a global ecological problem: In urban areas where electric lights are always on, the stars are harder to see. Perhaps that affects life on Earth in ways no one has yet imagined. Maybe astrologists have been on the right track all along.

Thater explains to The Line:

Of course this is connected to the other piece because of the intimate, wonderful relationship between dung beetles and the Milky Way, but it's also about the macro/micro relationship. These tiny beings utilize this great expanse of the stars to get wherever they're going. So I was interested in the projection of the beetles very large and the projection of the Milky Way very small.


"Science, Fiction" runs until Feb. 21 at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York.

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