The Chosen is from The Leafcutters, a multimedia project that includes video, photography, drawing and sculpture.
Location: Osa Peninsula
Sound design: Charles Lindsay
Cast: Atta colombica and Atta cephalotes
A line of leafcutter ants carrying green leaves looks like an animated drawing flickering across the dark forest floor. I wanted to convert this parade into a pageant, into a celebration of color, calling to mind a Balinese festival or pagan rite.
Leafcutter ants harvest flowers but won’t specifically target them unless the source is abundant. I gathered the flowers myself and offered them to several colonies. One ignored them completely, others were mostly interested, but one couldn’t get enough of them. Leafcutter colonies, of the same species, exhibit remarkably different behaviors, almost different personalities. Some are flexible and others are oddly stubborn refusing to take the plant they are actively harvesting if moved a few feet. It’s interesting to note that the most war-like colony in the area was also the most inflexible.
Each morning I gathered fresh flowers in the forest and gave them to the colony. Thousands of ants collected the special offerings and carried the cornucopia of color in their mandibles, parading for a hundred meters across the dark forest floor, and like a ritualistic procession, they descended into their subterranean world of tunnels and chambers and laid the flowers at the feet of a golden idol.