Record of the Insect War

Over the holidays lots of friends sent me this glorious link of Brian Chan's Insect Origami, beautiful sculptures of multi-legged invertebrates created by folding a single piece of paper.

Brian Chan, Scutigera, 2006

Brian Chan, Mayfly, 2006

Coincidentally, I watched a documentary with my relatives over the holidays called Between The Folds, a wonderful look at origami. The film lets the artists themselves talk about what drew them to paper folding, and how it is an art, a science, an artistic science, and a scientific art. In amongst all the glorious polygonal paper topology was an offhand  reference by physicist Robert Lang, about the "Bug Wars" of the '90s. Bug Wars! I had to find out.

Jun Maekawa, kabutomushi, 1993

Like any community of enthusiasts, origami has spawned  many conventions, clubs, and competitions. At one such club known as Origami Tanteidan Jun Maekawa decided to one-up everybody in 1992 by taking a multi-legged rhinoceros beetle model (no simple feat in itself) and add outspread wings to its design. "Then," says the club's 'Insect War' page, "the origami insect war got full-scale." If somebody brought a winged beetle one year, the next somebody made a winged stag beetle. Last year's spider begets a scorpion. Origami enthusiasts would gleefully analyze each others' crease patterns, then scour the natural world for an invertebrate nobody had folded before and bring that to the next meeting. The result is an endless swarm of insect origami, entire Flickr groups comprised entirely of folded sculptures representing insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and other arthropods. The Flickr group gives you a taste of the utterly amazing creatures that are being created. As well as being one of the artists profiled in Between The Folds, Lang also expounds a bit about the Bug Wars and the science of origami in a New Yorker article. Lang considers his creations to be compositions, and each sculpture is an 'Opus', much like a musical work. Sure, make fun of him if you like, but not until you've made your own damn gerromorpha out of a single piece of paper. Because I can't help it, here's a bunch more obscure beasts, each made from a single piece of paper:

Robert Lang, Stag Beetle BP, opus 477, 2005

Robert Lang, Dragonfly varileg, opus 453, 2003

Petr Stuchlý, pseudoscorpion (chelifer cancroides), 2011

Seriously, the amount of obscure arachnids just makes me want to collapse into a disbelieving heap of happy. Who thinks to make a paper ricinuleid? That's utterly bonkers!

Phil Kuhns, Katydid, 2011

Victoria Serova, Mantis Shrimp, 2009

Victoria Serova, Mantis Shrimp, 2009

One thing's for sure, I really want to make an origami insect. Perhaps though I'll start with the insect basics, as right now the only origami I can make is one of those 'fortune tellers' from grade school! z end
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2 Responses to Record of the Insect War

  1. del4yo says:

    Aaaah! The bug war! A very intertesting moment of origami. After the crane war came the insects. With Yoshizawa Akira and origami as art and the possibility to investigate the world with a new eye, Origami got the same problem as CG : it was possible to repesent more and more, more complicated, more realistic, more amazing. But origami had a few things CG didn’t have : a history of zen and a culture of it’s own. So in the end, if a few continued to go more and more realistic, a lot went back to the basics : expression, and well, zen. Like in a perfectly, balanced model with a breath and life of it’s own. I think the models of Jun Maeda still have this momentum of perfect zen mathematics ( not so sure about Robert Lang). But in the end, I love the solutions suggested by Kasahara Kunihiko, which are more about capturing the “mood” of an animal than it’s exact likeness. My favorite of his is a bee with two legs only, but it is done with a small number of well balanced folds, and this is another magic. Thanks for your articles , it reminded me some very good memories following this slow, quiet “war”.

  2. SB says:

    Achingly Beautiful! Perhaps the pinnacle of conciousness made manifest!

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