By Zac Willis
The Black Box at the Hirshorn once again draws me in for a video piece that leaves me with more questions than answers. The current work is by Rivane Neuenschwander. She collaborated with Cao Guimaraes for the piece. The video consists of ants collecting left over confetti from a previous event. It is shot extremely close to the ants so the viewer can understand what they are doing. By shooting it close, it allowed the artists to capture the sounds the ants were making and other subtle noises that humans may not hear. It sounds simple, an easy concept to understand and watch, but it becomes complicated.
The ants respond and behave in ways to make one think that the confetti is a precious metal to them. It seems as though they will do anything to get their hands on it. In watching I started to see their struggles and triumphs. The ants where behaving like humans. There was a sense of pride in carrying the object, they contemplated what they were going to do with items, and they also fought over the items.
While viewing the piece I was thinking of how I collect items and covet them because they have become special to me. The ants were doing the same thing. The video was acting as a device to make me examine my own life and how I behave towards items that are special to me. I was watching the video, but I was thinking about my own situation. However, this is the shortcoming of the piece. I was bringing my own ideas into the piece and creating my own narrative to what I wanted the work to be about. I do not think that was the intention of the work. I think it was more about the ants reacting and responding to this change (confetti) to their environment. If there was to be a narrative for the work Neuenschwander would have followed one specific ant and not moved from ant to ant. Therefore, it is solely about the ants’ movement with these confetti pieces and how the ants respond to the environment with them.
In some ways I see this as nothing more than a documentary of ants that should be shown on the Discovery Channel. I am what is making this piece more than what it is. I as the viewer bring it the content to make it my own. I bring the story to give to the ants. There is nothing more for me to do than just pretend and let my mind wonder about my experiences. So in a sense, I am making the art. The viewer can not just be a viewer; they must be a participant for this piece to do anything.