Venice, Cloisters New York

Collaboration with Professor Rudi Mattoni Ph.D. and the Lepidoptera Research Foundation, Inc.

Wenn die Seele etwas erfahren möchte, dann wirft sie ein Bild der Erfahrung vor sich nach außen und

tritt in ihr eigenes Bild ein. 

When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image (Meister Eckhardt).

“Ephemère” is a site-specific installation conceived for the cities of Venice and New York to be realized in collaboration with scientist Rudi Mattoni, American lepidopterist specialized in urban butterflies. The installation is both an homage to biodiversity and an attempt to increase awareness of the accelerating loss of biodiversity, expressed by butterflies. Fog rises up from the pavement, creating a presence that is both dense and void. Thousands of butterflies in blue, yellow and orange fill the air. The sound of wind, whisper and the amplified flutter of their wings conjure up a sense of eeriness, suspense.

The butterfly is a figure of consciousness- an intuition that becomes clearer in the etymological origin of the name: in Greek mythology “Psyche” was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings. The Greek word “Psyche” literally means "spirit, breath, life or animating force". The threshold between the seen and the unseen is a fleeting transfiguration.  The installation evokes a threshold state that is not unconscious, but acutely present, as in meditation.

Swings are hanging along the porticos of the courtyard. Each swing has its own tone, melody and story. When I move to and fro on the swing through butterflies and fog, a poetic starts enfolding about the metamorphosis, appearance and disapperance of the winged creature. Sound and narrative is composed by the speed and progression of the voyage on each swing. This journey intersects in sound and narrative those of all other swings in use, making up a whole ‘orchestra’ of instruments. The swing conjures up childhood memories, a world both enchanted and haunting.

All butterflies will be released in a final ritual and will continue to perpetuate with and sustain the natural

butterfly population of Venice and New York City.

THE SCIENTIFIC CONTEXT  by  Prof. Rudi Mattoni, Ph.D.

We use only butterfly species that are native and common to the installation locality. It must be emphasized that escapes will augment their natural populations as ALL have been reduced in recent times. Local residents should know these species, but many people do not realize that these butterflies surround their lives until this is pointed out. Butterflies are disappearing, both in species and numbers, as

nature is degraded.

The loss of biodiversity, the number and variety of life forms across the earth, from genetic variation to communities of organisms, has not registered in the public consciousness. Yet biodiversity loss is arguably the most important effect of human activities that degraded the environment by natural lands destruction, pollution, climate change and war. The loss is an unseen consequence, with the sixth

mass extinction of species now well underway. Among insects every day about 200 species become extinct. This is a thousand times the “normal” rate, greater than anything in the last 65 million years. Science has failed to communicate the problem, in part because most information is buried in reports that are boring and inaccessible. Almost all extinctions occur out of sight– billions of organisms dying

from subtle events are out of mind. Millions of undescribed species remain, with life histories of most described species also unknown or poorly known. Both the practical and intrinsic value of their knowledge is beyond calculation. Once lost, species and communities cannot be restored. The loss of information and resources that biodiversity represents is irreplaceable. We believe the involvement of the arts is a vital approach to provide attention to this critical subject. Our goal is to increase awareness of biodiversity loss. The butterfly (Psyche) serves as a powerful metaphor of a natural environment in decline. Our installation serves as a personal homage to biodiversity while we intend to imbed a deep awareness of the irreparable loss of biodiversity in public consciousness.

© Anne-Maria Korpi, all rights reserved, 2021