For more than 2 decades, the American biologist and artist Donna Conlon (b. 1966) has formulated socially critical and ecological artistic statements with her photographs and videos, which reflect on humanity’s reckless behavior in a globalized world.
Conlon’s 5 ½ minute long video Coexistence from 2003 is based on a close observation of a colony of leafcutter ants, which supply their nest in the rainforest with cut leaves from the surrounding plants. The ants do not eat the leaves, but transfer them via gardener ants to a fungus in the nest, which can break them down for nourishment. In this way, the ants not only live in a regulated community consisting of workers, the queen, guardians and gardeners, but also in a symbiosis with the fungus – while the large consumption of leaves challenges the balance of the surrounding ecosystem.
Into this milieu of multiple coexistence, Donna Conlon has filtered an ambivalent geopolitical agenda, inscribing in a series of leaves the international peace symbol and flags of various countries. The great multitude of waving national symbols and peace signs signals at first glance a conciliatory global coexistence of differences where the desire for conflict-free coexistence dominates. But a closer examination of the video reveals that the national flags mainly represent countries that around the turn of the millennium were involved in military conflicts.