Dingo comes to the rescue of ants imprisoned for art

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FIVE THOUSAND ants are trying to start a new life somewhere in Venice, after being liberated by a Venetian magistrate from their unasked-for role as an element of 'conceptual art', writes Patricia Clough.

The ants were part of a work by the Japanese artist Yukinori Yanagi, exhibited at the Venice Biennale arts festival. Dutifully, the insects marched in line up and down through a system of transparent plastic tubes and boxes, on a carpet of sand coloured to depict the flags of various countries. The exhibit was entitled Can Art Change the World?

Before anyone could come to a conclusion about that, a female visitor, claiming that many of the ants were dying, contacted Dingo, the local society that rescues stray animals, and the Italian Vegetarian Association.

They in turn reported the matter to the magistrates, accusing the artist of cruelty to animals. The ants were dying, Dingo said, 'because their highly organised life had been turned upside down, and they were forced to follow set paths in a climate and surroundings completely different from their own'. The exhibit, it went on, 'even though purporting to be artistic, is highly uneducational, and lacking in the necessary respect for nature and living creatures'.

The Venice public prosecutor, Bianca Maria Contronei, ordered that the ants be freed, and has opened a judicial investigation. In particular, she is trying to establish whether the ants suffered for their art. The only comment from the Biennale was that 'ants are not a protected species in Italy'.