The Butterfly´s Digitalization
…every artistic productio is not other that the continuous erification of the great confrontation in which,from the beginnings of creation and forever after, are the man and his environment.
Wassily Kandinsky (Concerning Spirituality in Art, 1912)
When I decided to digitalize these butterflies, I would have never imagined all what was there behind them and their amazing colors. Al that arquetipical simbolism. All that mithological history. All the fascination that the man has always had about them; from those who were carved in the egyptian pharaohs´ tombs,to the ones we can see today in a plasma screen TV.
I would have neither imagined that those colorful butterflies sold in the different markets of Lima had been previously crafted by expert Fol.-artists hands. Alter catching the butterflies and killing by suffocation, the hunter send the dead butterflies from the peruvian amazon jungla to Lima. These butterflies arrive to Lima in large quantities to different workshops where what I call “Folklorization of the Butterfly” takes place. Such process implies the dismemberment of the animal´s body and it´s following reconstruction by the artisan in order of making the butterflies look like if they were alive, with the wings Wide open and in a flying position. This is due to a specific reflex caused by the dead of the butterfly, which consists in the total shutting of it´s wings. Then, the folk artists do not have a different way of opening the wings of the butterfly that cutting them out and separating them from their bodies. Later they stick them back to the body –it could even be the body of a different butterfly- using a strong glue. They also extract the interior of the abdomen and then they fill it with black cotton. The antennas are replaced by brush hairs and the legs are taken away. I would have never imagined such an specific artisan labour that, like the one of a neuro-surgeon, transforms the butterfly at an extremely small scale.
In other words, I World have never imagined that these butterflies, half natural and half artificial, half organic and half technological, were really some kind of cyborg worthy of a science-fiction movie. They are bodies that have been transformed in order to be sold and exported (shipped) in containers to countries of the First World. But that situation is just a little reflection of what the human being, thanks to the use of his technology, does withnature: he inades it, he destroys it, mutilates it and finally aniquilates it.
What I did imagine was the ideal way of digitalizing those transformed butterflies. And the answer was to directly put them into a high-resolution scanner, without the need of using a photographic camera. Traditionally, from the beginnings of photography, any photograph that is made without the intervention of a camera is called “photogram”. But these photograms are different fromthe rest because they are absolutely digitally made, from the scanning to the digital output of the prints.
I decided to enlarge the butterflie´s size and I was able to look at them closely for the first time. Then I could see their arquitectonic structure, their defects and their virtues, their muscles and their heads, their details and textures, their scales (please don´t confuse them with pixels!).
The content of this body of work is as much documentary and conceptual as artistically expressive. It is a registration of a series of butterflies from a specific place in the peruvian amazon jungla, which were meticulously selected for this project. The subjective digital manipulation of the color in these butterlies has been a powerful tool, not only at an aesthetic level but –and over all- in the level of the expresión of abstract sensations and emotions.
Almost all the specimens of butterflies that I have selected for this show are males. This is because the hunting of male butterflies is totally legal and even promoted by the government. The killing and comercialization of every invertebrate amazonic species is allowed by the law since “they are not in danger of extintion”, like the INRENA says (a gubernamental institution which is suposed to protect the peruvian natural resources). The INRENA not only allows people to hunt and sell tis butterflies, but also charges a tax for each butterfly that every legal (registered) hunter kills, making a profit out of the killing of these animals.
I think that the concept of “in danger of extintion” is relative and vague, since it does not contemplate the posible alterations in the biological chains of the diferent ecosistems. The buttterflies are not only a link the feeding chaín (cadena alimenticia),but they are important polinizing agents. The extreme hunting of butterflies could cause (desbalances) in the ecosystems which could negatively affect to much bigger number of species. Also, it is important to ask ourselves a question: ¿How many species that used to be very populous (populated) ended being endangered species? And now, with the global warming, the situation is even more dangerous than befote: the butterflies are dying because of the excessive heat in certain regions of the amazon jungle and they are having to migrate to colder regions towards the Andes.
In between all the male butterflies of this body of work, there is a female one (in this case, a Morpho didius). It is ilegal to hunt and/or sell female butterflies. But the presence of a female butterfly in this exhibition does not do anything but proving that, besides from the legal hunting, there is a black market of these animals, which obviously ignores the inefective gubernamental conservation laws.
I could say that everything what happens to these poor butterflies is only a little example o a much bigger problem, which is our depredation of our amazon jungle, from the hunting of wild animals, through the excessive deforestation, to the dangerous pollution, which is a consequence of the activities of the powerful mining, oil and natural gas industries. The butterfly is just a little specie –but extremely beautiful- that in this project simbolizes the progressie extermination that the human being is doing over nature. In this project, the images of butterlies represent the nature raped by man. It is also a calling to protect the amazon jungle in ay way posible,as soon as posible, befote it´s too late.
If you asked me which World be the best answer for this problem, my answer World be very simple: I do not now. I amjust an artist with a critical purposal. Mi misión is to call the atention of the people towards this issue.
I hope that an unknown somebody, after seeing the show, could figure out something like creating, for example, a web page called www.savethebutterflies.com, or developing creative ideas that should start with the education of the tourists to not buy those butterflies. But there is also a need to make the essential interventions hended to change the current legal system in respect to the hunting and commercialization of invertebrated species rom the peruvian Amazon jungle. We need more effective and sofisticated protectionist laws, like the ones in Brazil for example.
In this body of work my vision is both poetic and descriptive, is expressive and inormative; it is an art production anda t the same time is a document. But, above all, it is a calling: a calling or the protection o the natural species of the peruvian amazon jungle. It is also a testimony that I leave to you about my experience with these wonderful butterflies and with all the magic that surrounds them. In greek they use the same word (psyche) for naming “butterfly” that or namin “soul”.
Finally, I leave you with an utopic vision: Imagine a large green field, a bucholic and idilic scenary, an untouched rainforest, a panteistic landscape in it´s maximum expression. Inthe fields, under the blonde sun that tenderly caress the flowers, hundreds of butterflies o every color fly widespread everywhere, each one of them showing off it´s iridiscent wings, like if they were scattered pieces of a broken mirror that reflects the extraordinary turquoise, blue, green and purple of the sky during the privileged sunsets o our Amazon jungle.
Santiago Bustamante Mujica
Lima, May 2007