Nanna Melland: Swarm
A swarm is a biological survival strategy for insects. It is a challenging strategy that constantly seeks to balance the growth and needs of the individuals in the swarm with the pressures of its natural habitat. Swarm consists of thousands of small flat aluminium aeroplanes suspended in a swarm formation on a large wall. The large size of the installation and its relentless repetition of an otherwise familiar form will induce in the viewer feelings of being small, vulnerable and uncomfortable, similar to the feelings when faced with a real swarm.
Artist listNanna Melland
A swarm is a biological survival strategy for insects. It is a challenging strategy that constantly seeks to balance the growth and needs of the individuals in the swarm with the pressures of its natural habitat.
Approximately 10% of the world population travel by air today. That is 600 million people! This swarm of aerial travel has brought benefits and drawbacks. Material and social culture now cross borders at hundreds of kilometres per hour, and yet this has eroded cultural diversity, damaged the environment and reinforced inequalities. It is alarming that todays aviation systems operate at or near their maximum capacity, and we increasingly depend upon safe and reliable aviation traffic, with very little margin for disruptions or irregularities.
Furthermore, we board aeroplanes increasingly for pleasure rather than necessity. What is it doing to us and the society we live in, when we can travel wherever and whenever we want, to destinations that only a century ago would have taken months of risky travel to reach, if it were even possible?
Some say “to travel is to live”, but if we are unable to stop, what are the consequences for us as individuals?
The installation Swarm
Swarm consists of thousands of small flat aluminium aeroplanes suspended in a swarm formation on a large wall. The large size of the installation and its relentless repetition of an otherwise familiar form will induce in the viewer feelings of being small, vulnerable and uncomfortable, similar to the feelings when faced with a real swarm. There is beauty in the synchronized movements, but the force of the mass that is formed by thousands of tiny individuals is disturbing.
The shape and size of the aeroplanes ranging from 2.5 to 8.5 cm, are a conscious hint at the Catholic tradition of votive offerings. These are small metal or clay objects - sometimes representing an afflicted body part - that are offered at a holy site together with a prayer for healing or protection in times of illness or uncertainty. These offerings reflect faith, and also humility in the face of nature’s great and dangerous forces.
The installation Swarm is hence an opportunity and a place for the viewer, despite hectic everyday tasks and routines, to pause and contemplate.
By making a comparison between ourselves as human beings and a swarm of aeroplanes, I wish to invoke the idea that we are after all nothing more and nothing less than one swarm among many who are trying to survive. We are not lords who survey or command. As individuals we are merely small parts of a much greater whole.
Another important aspect of the Swarm is to invite the audience to interact with the installation. In practical terms this means that visitors can purchase one of the planes and pick it off the wall for themselves. They can then pin it directly onto their clothes. This transaction will take place independently of gallery staff. The visitor pays for the aeroplane by putting money into a box placed in front of the installation, where information on the costs of the different sized aeroplanes can be found.
In contrast to buying a candle in a church, however, visitors do not leave behind the offering object but rather take it with them. They walk out of the gallery wearing an aeroplane. They will wear this reminder of something bigger, as well as helping to spread Swarm from within the gallery space into the real world and the global human swarm.
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