I saved an Admiral’s life 2009/10
During my childhood I caught a lot of butterflies for my father’s entomologic collection. In that time it was fun and I got paid with love and money. Later in my adolescence I’ve asked myself several times whether the butterflies’ death caused by hydrogen cyanide vapours or pyroligneous acid ether was as absolutely painless as my father always assured me. As a young grown-up I’ve long ago lost interest in collecting and skewering small beautiful dead animals; and due to my changed consciousness I knew that I’ve had killed thousands living beings.
Cultural-historically butterflies are applied to the sign of a soul freed from the body: in old Greece the term “psyche” (literally: breath, soul) was in use to denominate the insect; hence on visual representations of a deceased person the soul appeared as featured by a butterfly’s wing. Also christian iconography (e.g. on some grave stones from the romanticism period) interpreted the butterfly as a ressurection symbol, particularly because of the characteristic metamorphism which every single animal has to transform in its morphological evolution. Passing through the rather shabby phases of egg, nymph, larva, cocoon it arrives at the imago: it is in this last state of manifestation where the individual literally becomes an image.
Some day during a forest walk I had the chance to save a single Admiral-lepidopteran from drowning in a pond; comletely dressed I waded into the water to save this single butterfly. This incidence was very important for me: it felt as if the rescue of the single one had balanced the killing of the many other butterlies.
As a kind of artistic rehabilitation I compiled analog picture assemblages and collages from self-photographed butterflies, old butterflies’ photographs from my father, nature motifs from wall-papers’ floral patterns, real dead butterflies, pressed flowers etc. and photographed these assemblages with a large-format camera. For the staging of the bellows camera these two-dimensional picture constallations have been expanded spacially and temporally.
Spacially Backwards: on the collages’ rear side “floating” butterflies were adhered and backlit with light from the realm of the dead into the picture procedure… Spacially Forwards: into the bellows of the large format camera I’ve glued moths and flowers (where they are usually looking for nectar), where they blacken the film negative and in terms of composition photogram-like outline and shape the motif. Temporally: dead butterflies hanging on nylon threads get re-animated by stroboscope flashes and become motion-blurred with the allover composition.
The trompe l’oeuil-effect of the large formated and colorful prints faces the observer with an exuberant nature literally oozing out the picture creating oscillation figures regarding content and form, thus thwarting the technical manner of the medium of photography. For me the work “butterflies – I saved an Admiral’s life” is a symbolic and artistic reanimation transcending the butterflies’ thematic motif dealing with the fact of the balance of Eros and Thanatos.
Lambda-Prints mounted on aludibond with Plexiglas, 120 x 160 cm, 75 x 100 cm, edition 1/5 + a.e.
120 x 120 cm, 75 x 75 cm, edition 1/5 + a.e.
68 x 142 cm, edition 1/10 + a.e.
Edward Cella Art + Achitecture, Los Angeles
Press release VIP ART FAIR 2012
Thomas Zika, „Butterflies – I saved an Admiral’s life“
Thomas Zika conceptually investigates spatial and conscious transformation. The old Greek word for butterfly refers to the “psyche” (literally breath, soul) and was used to denominate the insect. We tend to associate butterflies with beauty, transience, and the temporal. The cycle of the butterfly from cocoon to a flying object appeals much to the imagination. Passing through the rather shabby phases of egg, nymph, larva, and cocoon, it arrives at the imago: It is in this last state of manifestation where the individual literally becomes an image. The new series of work by German artist Thomas Zika plays with these associations we have with butterflies. His father, fascinated by this insect, started collecting butterflies in the late fifties taking young Thomas with him to catch a butterfly and prepare it carefully for eternity. Resulting in boxes and boxes filled with the little butterflies, their wings decorated with various patterns and colors, each creature showing its unique identity. Zika’s fascination for this creature started thus early, and now he has enabled himself to go beyond the subject of these boxed butterflies. The boxes collected by his father no longer form the subject of Zika’s work, but the total context of the life and death of a butterfly comes to life in this new series of photographs Zika has taken in 2010. He creates a colorful environment of flowers or decorative background and places the image of a bigger than life-size butterfly as a negative form into the image. In addition, Zika repurposes found photography by layering and constructing a new image and then finally photographying the result. Light and transparency enter the image in a natural way giving the image depth, a dimension in which the butterfly makes his last round before dissolving into the air. As big shadows they are floating in a space reflecting their colors and fragile being. A better tribute to this small species is seldom found.