Julia Oldham

Member Since December 5, 2007

I always have been a lover of bugs. My earliest memories are of exploring the woods, overturning rocks to find worms, grubs, and slugs. When I was a little older, I went to a summer camp where my duty was to feed the lobsters in the science lab, and I savored my intimate time with those strange crustaceans. In college I was interested in scientific illustration and took classes in which I would painstakingly stipple dragonflies and other specimens. My models were always dead, pinned insects. I didn’t want the company of dead bugs, though; I wanted a personal connection to living things. I wanted to handle them, maybe to become them.

My work is an attempt to enter the mind of the invertebrate. I want to understand what it feels like to engage in their behaviors, movements and rituals. So I intensely study invertebrates—I read about them; I watch videos of their movements; I watch live creatures in the wild and in zoos; I talk to beekeepers and scientists. I contemplate the odd gestures of bugs and try to bring them into my world.

Invertebrates engage in enthusiastic, although often inelegant, dances for purposes of mating and communication. Humans are similarly inclined to dance in order to communicate an idea or invite sex; and so I use dance to bridge species. I translate invertebrates’ rituals into choreography that I perform, unpracticed, in front of the camera. During my engagement in these dances, a strange system emerges as I try to remember which movement to perform next. The dance begins to feel oddly intuitive, but never graceful. The resulting videos are concerned with playful anthropomorphization. They are meditations on the fantasy that humans and invertebrates have a shared set of experiences, accessible through awkward, hybridized dance steps.