chapter  5
16 Pages

On a wing and a prayer: butterfl ies in contemporary art

ByGiovanni Aloi

Everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterfl ies. Damien Hirst, 2005

Butterfl ies are an easy target, making their captivity and destruction much more criminal.

Mat Collishaw, 2009

On 16 November 2009, Space Shuttle Atlantis took off with a crew of more than astronauts on board. This time, the human ambition for breaching the boundaries of the unknown was shared by four caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfl y, which tagged along in the darkness of the universe (Pathak 2010). For these insects the trip wasn’t entirely a matter of leisure, as the eyes of over 180,000 students and teachers on planet Earth kept spying on their metamorphic development in a zero-gravity environment. This educational project, designed by Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Educational Outreach, also encouraged teachers to set up hatching chambers with four Painted Lady caterpillars in classrooms to enable real-time comparison between the insects on Earth and those in space. The University of Colorado beamed images of the insects in space via YouTube, providing students with a direct connection to the mission and prompting refl ections on the effect lack of gravity has on bio-rhythms.