Early this January I was contacted by Tina Tarpgaard, a choreographer for a Danish dance troupe (Recoil) who would be living and working here in Westboro. She was looking for space to work on a project she would be presenting here in Ottawa. One unique condition: this space would not be for dancers–Tina required space to breed and experiment with mealworms that eat plastic. I sat down with Tina who explained a little of the Membrane project she and her colleagues have been working on since 2017.
MASS – bloom is a choreographic installation that sets out to explore our complicated relationship with consumption and waste. Dealing with the decay, decomposition and ultimately the death that characterizes our MASS – consumption; but also, the potential within that destruction for a MASS – Bloom.
These mealworms that are capable of surviving off of our most toxic refuse may represent a unique perspective into our evolving, and increasingly unnatural, ecosystem. In the MASS- bloom explorations a human performer is accompanied by thousands of polystyrene consuming mealworms, and lots of plastic, in a micro universe inside a see-through dome. Together they create a durational choreography that will alter the plastic installation that surrounds them over time.
Tina explained, these worms that usually feed on grains, seem to be quite pleased with eating polystyrene– a major waste component of our human throw away culture. The vulnerable relation between worms, polystyrene and the human and its slow dissolution is the central point of the piece. Tina hopes to offer a speculative point of view on our relationship with ourselves and others. The piece is an invitation to visually experience finding an unexpected symbiosis with a form of life that potentially has better prospects than herself—but mounting a piece whose central idea is tied to breeding thousands of mealworms comes with a unique set of challenges.
The piece is going to premiere here in Ottawa in March at the Ottawa Dance Directive, but before it can Recoil is has asked for our help to find facilities for the production to work in. So, we’re putting it to you, the community, to see if someone has some space to spare to host some worms!
With regards to their requirements, they do not need a lot of space at this moment. A room in an office or something likewise could work perfectly – as long as they can look the door, and turn off the lights, since the worms prefer darkness.
The initial stages of the project have mainly to do with research on the mealworms, observing them grow, and experimenting with the timespan of their plastic-consumption. Asking for space to farm meal-worms isn’t just an unusual request, but one that people are likely to balk at on principal alone. That’s why they’ve asked for our help! This seems to me to be a great experience for school-age children, or any museum, or arts-minded business in the area.
If you have space available or want to participate in this unique project please contact us at the BIA via the form below. You can also help by donating your Styrofoam! For those who are still a little squeamish about the prospect of playing host to a colony of mealworms, Tina says not to worry! “Your building is not going to be flooded with worms, searching for some plastic to eat! They are contained in big plastic boxes – of course created of a form of plastic, they do not eat that is!”