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A wooden sculpture of a frightening insect with a sting

This series of sculptures was inspired by the HI-MEMS project (Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems). This is being run by DARPA, the US government’s military research and development wing. The project seeks to incorporate electronic control devices into insects during their pupal stage – when they turn from immature forms into adults. An example would be a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

​The purpose of these creatures is declared by DARPA to be military surveillance, although they must obviously be suitable for use in killing too.

I imagined a future where the devices would be implanted as nano-factories. Given the large numbers of insect offspring and impracticality of implanting each one individually, these microscopic factories would create the devices, then replicate themselves into offspring. This would give the potential for such technology to cross between similar species or between predator and prey. They could also change and evolve along with their hosts, becoming harder and harder to control.

What would such creatures look like? With some theatrical licence and an interest in insects developed by studying them for a Zoology degree in the early ’90s, I tried to imagine. These are beautiful nightmares; displayed in ways that echo the detached interest of Victorian collectors, which seems to be dangerously mirrored by these modern scientists.