If the words roach motel make you squirm, Brandon Ballengée hopes you’ll think again. Blurring the boundaries of art and ecological research, the artist-biologist’s Love Motel for Insects is an ongoing series of outdoor installations designed to bring nocturnal arthropods and humans into closer contact. Since the project began in 2001, the blue glow of UV lights on blank canvas has attracted visitors—by foot and by wing—from around the world.
The first Love Motel consisted of bed sheets spread on the floor of the Costa Rican rain forest. Ballengée, inspired by the diversity of insects that came knocking, conceived a more formal sculptural project. So far, he has installed billboard-sized Love Motels in sites as varied as an inner-city bus stop, a Venetian boat, and the Scottish Highlands. Female insects often visibly mark the canvases with chemicals to attract mates, and he plans to display these “pheromone paintings” as finished works of art.
At Ballengée’s most recent Love Motel installation last summer in Ireland’s Lough Boora Parklands, hundreds of people joined him for nocturnal field trips to visit and identify insects. Many participants arrived afraid of bugs, he says, mainly because they knew little about them. “There is an underlying idea somewhere between the art and the science to spark a little increased awareness,” and inspire protection of local ecosystems, he says.
Love Motels this summer include sites planned for Germany and Manhattan.
Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.