The Weight of Ants in the World

Michele Allen

Since 2018 I have been working on a long-term project The Weight of Ants in the World, which focuses on an ancient woodland in the centre of an industrial estate in North East England, thinking about the wood as a witness to industrialisation. The project includes, photography, sound, archival research and video to intensely explore this ancient ecosystem and has also taken on a degree of activism.  The work aims to manifest this site in other spaces, to mobilize the woods, thinking about their mass, fragility and endurance at a time of advanced climate crisis and species loss. As a result of the project the woods have been surveyed and designated as a local wildlife site and in February 2020 they were protected with a Tree Preservation Order.

The text presented here includes a reflection on the title followed by a series of sketchbook notes and wildlife observations, originally created for Incidental Futures an event responding to the legacy of Artists Placement Group at South London Gallery. During lockdown I read it as part of an online performance, alongside audio recorded in the wood and images and more recently it has been presented alongside other works from the project in a group exhibition Hinterlands at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. I’m interested in the way this text opens up the artistic process and acts as a document for my time spent in the woodland and the potential to create artistic and creative connections between sites (both physical and institutional) to make this small area of ancient habitat more visible.