What is wrong with artists these days? They’re feeding ants all the wrong foods, as the Times’ once-a-week Science section gloriously puts on display, just so they can make derivative art in the style of Damien Hirst, who, as we reported before, may be past his prime. The Science section thankfully gives science and its practictioners a platform for taking these art-world people’s ant installations to task. Otherwise, artists might get away with making a global statement about the terribleness of McDonald’s by feeding ants hamburgers and McCafe Smoothies. Which are bad for you.
Entomologist Colin S. Brent, who practices professional bug-ology for the Federal Department of Foods and Agriculture. “My first response as a scientist would be bafflement as to why Pogonomyrmex was chosen.” He is not baffled by the long and complicated-to-pronounce name of the ants, which are more cutely known as “Pogos.” He is baffled because, in the wild, these ants live off seeds. Desert seeds. “They might enjoy the sesame seeds on the buns, but that would be about it.”
Combination-style paleo-entomologist Michael S. Engel, who went a little easier on the artist. “If I had to toss in a particular group of ants into an enclosure to see how well they were going to thrive off junk food. I’d throw in generalist carnivores and omnivores like army ants.”
Bert Hölldobler, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning pröfessor who knows so much about ants that he cö-authored a book… called The Ants. “I have been asked repeatedly to help artists to fill their creations with ants. Some of the proposals were quite mind-boggling.” You shut ’em down, Hölldobler.
The artist behind the piece, Elizabeth Demaray, works at Rutgers as an Assistant Professor, but was unfortunately “out of the office,” and could not return requests for comment. By the way, all of the ants in the exhibit are dying. But the ones that are surviving are really loving those tasty little seeds with which McDonald’s so graciously sprinkes their buns.