Leaf Cutter Ants (Atta spp.) are one of the few species that are true farmers. These animals de-foliate plants around their colonies by cutting small pieces of leaves and carry the pieces back to their colony. The harvested leaves are not eaten, but rather are shredded and used as a nutrient substrate upon which they cultivate fungus. This particular species of fungus is found only in leaf cutter ant colonies. It is this farmed fungus that is eaten by the members of the colony.
Leaf cutter ants are powerful metaphors for human society. These animals organize themselves into large colonies (cities) made up of millions of related individuals (society) and make their living as farmers (deforesters). Despite the growing American disconnect from the natural world, we are still an agrarian society. Technology assists us in our own food production, but ultimately it is the farms that convert photons into calories.
Millions of ants all obsessed with living – working, growing food, feeding each other, reproducing, caring for their young, warring, and ultimately dying – not so different from us.
This work is presented in the format of a Herbarium Study Sheet. The letterforms are leaves cut by leaf cutter ants at the Cincinnati Zoo. Currently the ants have successfully spelled out more than a dozen words including: Farm, Feed, Live, Die, Food, Sex, Born, Grow and War.
There are 16 pieces available for exhibition in this series. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to exhibit this work.