In her works, Jennifer Bannert addresses the fragility of existence. She observes individual life from a microperspective. Her photograph pheromon functions as a magnifying glass, showing a particular detail of everyday life: moths caught in a pheromone trap in a kitchen cupboard. Pheromones are sexual attractants that entice male moths, which then die an agonizing death. The death of the male moths prevents reproduction and thus the further spread of the insects.
The photographic enlargement of the adhesive strip, which in reality is only a few centimetres in length, gives rise to a relief on the matte photograph that emphasizes the male moths’ process of decay. By focussing on the insects’ suffering, Bannert references the anthropocentrism of a perspective that diametrically opposes insects and humans: Insects are seen as primitive foreign bodies for which there is no place in a civilized habitat. Animosity for insects also has a fixed tradition in classic still-life painting. Indeed, in the Still Leven of the 16th and 17th centuries insects were repeatedly seen as pests, as symbols of the Devil and decay. As creatures that develop from larva and pupa by means of metamorphosis, they represent perishability and the process-based nature of life. Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis, for example, which tells of Gregor Samsa’s mutation into an insect (1912), serves as a striking example of human unease regarding insects.
According to the latest studies the number of insects has substantially declined in the last two decades, and this is already impacting on biodiversity among birds and mammals. So should it not rather be humans who cause unease, who are about to transform the Earth into an inhospitable place? The fragility of existence and the insect’s demise that Bannert’s photograph visualizes are inextricably linked in our Anthropocene era.