The Moth Project with PlantBot Genetics

Canadian artist Wendy DesChene and American artist Jeff Schmuki began practicing as PlantBot Genetics in 2009. Each have prior exhibition experience and awards as solo artists prior to forming their collaboration and both were raised with strong connections to the land around them. Wendy is part indigenous people of Canada and her father built an off grid cabin in the deep forest of Ontario where the family has spent several months every year since she was a toddler. Jeff was raised in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, an environment of extremes that nurtured a unique relationship to the fragile landscape and a respect of limited natural resources and solar energy from an early age. PlantBot Genetics create installations, interventions, and collaborations that combine activism, research, and social space in order to foster discussion and generate action in the area of ecological awareness. By linking environmental issues to a diverse array of creative operations and tactics, DesChene + Schmuki extends the “knowledge of the moment”, demonstrates the fragile connection between the natural world and personal action, and offers simple, positive changes that can be enacted to increase sustainability — an activity that can be replicated long after the artists have moved on.

PlantBot Genetics has exhibited and/or completed projects at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Goethe Institute of Cairo, Egypt, and the Bach Modern of Austria. In 2010, a significant contribution to their body of work was produced at the American Academy in Rome as visiting artists. Recent exhibitions include Foodture at the Elaine L Jacob Gallery of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and PlantBot Genetics: a Critical Contact Exhibition Series at the Cafritz Foundation Arts Center in Takoma Park, Maryland, and artist lectures and studio visits at Long Island University in Brookville, New York. Public projects while artists in residence at The Hafnarborg Art Center and Museum in Iceland and the McColl Center for the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina has gained invitations to the Landscape Laboratory at Buitenwerkplaats‏ in the Netherlands, the KulttuuriKauppila Art Center in Il, Finland as well as the Studio’s of Key West Florida.

Program Description

The Moth Project

Moths play a vital role in telling us more about the health of our environment. They are widespread found in diverse habitats, and sensitive to ecological changes making them particularly useful as an indicator species of climate change. Monitoring their numbers and ranges can give us vital clues to changes in our own environment, such as the effects of new farming practices, pesticides, air pollution and climate change. PlantBot Genetics (Wendy DesChene + Jeff Schmuki) presents The Moth Project, a solar powered community based intervention focusing on the importance of insects in our environment.

We have chosen to focus on moths because of their diversity and potential usefulness as pollinators. There is much concern over the dramatic rise in Honey Bee Depopulation Syndrome (HBDS) or Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which the colony abruptly dies or disappears. Many do not realize the vital role bees’ play in maintaining a balanced eco-system. Asking what would happen if bees completely disappeared has led to nighttime insects or second shift pollinators as potential food crop pollinators. Moths are also a family of insects that most communities know little about yet find at the porch light.

Kaleidoscopic videos of moth wing patterns are projected onto reflective tents that attract moths and other nighttime pollinators as well as curious people. Lighting and projections are powered through off-grid solar arrays and portable gardens on wheels contain carefully selected native plants known to benefit insects. The Moth Project creates interactive public engagements focusing on environmental education and empowers audiences through citizen science and backyard naturalism that can lead to new conversations and civic action.

Daytime Solar Gardens: Everyone is invited to find what plants best provide a clean food source for bees and other pollinating insects. Participants learn of the importance of bee pollination and learn how to cultivate a regionally appropriate garden that provides a food source for these essential pollinators. Additionally, our full solar array is charging/powering real time, providing a powerful tool in sharing the ease of installing and maintaining renewable solar power.

Nighttime Moth Gardens: During these magical nighttime events, the public takes part in an experiential and educational survey of nighttime pollinators. Participants aid in the non-destructive survey of insects drawn to the off grid, solar powered light tents adjacent to the onsite gardens. This visually stunning project compiles educational outreach, videos, discussions, field reports, and other documentation for a field guide that promotes an understanding and appreciation for pollinators, native plants, ecologically, responsible sources of power and citizen science.

The Moth Project underscores the decline of the pollinator populations and the need to preserve the environment while short-circuiting doomsday predictions. PlantBot Genetics shares simple actions that the community can take to foster local pollinators. The Moth Project will: extend the “knowledge of the moment;” demonstrate the fragile connection between natural world and personal action; and offer simple, positive changes that can be enacted to increase sustainability — an activity that can be replicated long after the artist has moved on.

Special Thanks

“The Moth Project” is supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Pulitzer Arts Foundation.