Amy Youngs’ Worm Art

August 18, 2008

Not just sheet mulch, but other composts: worm castings. I feed table scraps to worms camped in a bin in the basement. After I’d had them for a few weeks, I noticed I could hear them moving, eating. For worms, they’re loud.

Detail of Digestive Table by Amy Youngs

Artist Amy Youngs noticed the same thing. She’s an installer of heady systems, like “Intraterrestrial Surroundings,” which mics a bin of composting worms and amplifies the sound through what looks like an Ikea ottoman. Furniture becomes an entry to subterranean rooms; projected above, an image of what the worms see.

Youngs’ work applies electronics to plants and insects, often with a sense of humor. For instance, “Digestive Table” closes the culinary loop. Set and eat dinner, then push the leftovers into the table. Worms eat it, providing compost & tea for the plants at the base. You can watch it all on an infrared camera, or just build your own with the plans provided.

Another of Youngs’ works, “Farm Fountain,” created with artist Ken Rinaldo, creates an almost self-sustaining fish & vegetable farm. It offers little for the eye, and anyone familiar with John Todd’s Living Machines or Bill Mollison’s permaculture has seen it ages ago. (Along those lines, I might suggest a redesign that uses no electricity.)

A detail from Farm Fountain

But it lives in the space between sculpture, architecture, and ecology, and I applaud any work that makes the gallery a barnyard. What’s more, all her works point to an art not of lyrical emotion but ideas. There is an art to science, after all, even if we artistic types need to work on the art of appreciating it.

A large-scale Farm Fountain shows until January 2009 at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. In September, Youngs also seems to be involved with a panel for Circuitastrophe, a circuit-bending exhibit at Cincinnati’s CAC.

Previous post:

Next post: