Swarms, whether fish, foul, or flies, are a constant source of wonder and fascination for humans, as well as a frustration. We lack lateral lines or instinctive reactions, and so our attempts to swarm usually result in chaotic crowds and gridlocked highways. Though we can train ourselves to coordinate and synchronize small groups of humans, this ability tapers off rather dramatically when we go from 20 to 1,000 to 100,000. It is no wonder then that the undulating flocks of starlings or amoeboid foragings of army ants are often the subject of both intense scientific study, and of art. Swarming is our fellow animals at their most alien.
Kristi Malakoff‘s cut-out installations in paper and wood are built on that alien wonder, and exploit it to the fullest, the carefully cut individual creatures spilling out over gallery walls, floors, and ceilings, taking up the entire volume of the gallery, or just huddled in a corner. The last example is my personal favorite, her 2008 work Resting Swarm:
More than 20,000 hand-cut honeybees cluster in the corner, its small size belying the staggering potential such a population should it suddenly decide to take to the air.