Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart.
Hubert Duprat is a French artist who makes astonishing works. Right at the top of his jaw-dropping array of working methods is his collaboration with the small, moth-like caddisfly. Working with entomologists, he locates these hard-working homebuilders and places them
in designer fish tanks within an art gallery environment. He removes any dirt, gravel, or twigs that caddisflies normally use to construct their protective sheaths and replaces them with – and I can’t wait to tell you this – tiny fragments of gold, lapis lazuli, rubies, opals and diamonds.
And so a very precious and completely individual ‘sculpture’ is built. Duprat videos the whole process and gallery visitors can view the tiny creatures, magnified to the appetising size of
a crayfish, building their new homes with all
the care and precision of a Swiss watchmaker. Displayed alongside the projected videos are thin Perspex tanks where individual caddisflies can be seen doing their Rumpelstiltskin-esque thing.
I’ve been waiting half a lifetime to experience an artwork like this. Many years ago, as a young art student, I became fascinated by philosopher Karl Popper’s concept of Worlds 1, 2 and 3. The first two worlds roughly paralleled Descartes’ notions of body and mind. But World 3, objective knowledge, extended Cartesian Dualism into the realm of objects that had been acted upon by living things. A library could be viewed as a sophisticated World 3 object and so could a television set. Popper took his argument beyond the fabrication and ingenuity of humans and into the... Subscribe to read this article in full