Aglais urticae is a long term book project involving several authors, artists and species. The book or poetry collection orbits the lifecycle of the butterfly Aglais urticae on which the book is fundamentally dependent.
When a butterfly is just hatched from its chrysalis it secretes one red drop, called meconium. Every year I harvest a few of these drops for this project. These meconiums drops are then turned into ink for the poems to be written in. Each year a new artist or poet will be chosen to create a poem or text based piece with the ink made the current year.
Through the process of writing, caring for the caterpillars and teaching people about the importance of butterflies within our ecosystem the project explores interdependence and appreciation between species.
The project is supervised by Swedish lepidopterist Christer Wiklund and collaborates with the Norwegian organization SABIMA (Council for Biodiversity).
Around April every year the butterfly Aglais urticae wakes up from its winter hibernation and starts to mate and lay eggs on the nettles. In May those eggs will hatch and the caterpillars will crawl out onto the nettles which provides them with both housing and food.
A few of these caterpillars are collected from a meadow near my house at Hauketo, Oslo and brought into my home and daily life. The following weeks I am occupied by gathering stingy nettles for them to eat, checking that the temperature and light is right and experiencing the changes the larvae go through.
Just before they take their first flight and are released back to the meadow the butterflies leave the red meconium drops behind. The meconium is a rest product from the pupae that the butterfly expels right after leaving the chrysalis. It is a natural thing all butterflies do.
Then starts the process of making the ink for the poem, this being a tedious process of making sure none of the meconium is wasted and that the ink will still be biodegradable and organic.
When the ink is ready it is handed over to the poet who has followed the former process closely. The poet will then handwrite their final poem which will be documented for the future book.
The original poem with the meconium ink will be recycled back to the meadow where the caterpillars were first found thus ending the project's year-cycle and fertilizing the soil for the next.
2023's auther is Eli Mai Huang Hesse. Huang Nesse’ practice is a careful investigation of mixed feelings. Trying to understand contradictions, lingering in ambivalence and making room for ambiguity, her works have delved into identity crises, the notions of hybridity and situations that make you laugh and cry at the same time. One of her latest works, Shapeshifting, is for instance a light and sound installation with stories about plants and animals that refuse to be classified or have paradoxical abilities. Primarily, she works with storytelling, textile and immersive video installations.
Eli finished a MFA from Oslo Art Academy (2022) and a BFA from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm (2018). She has had several solo shows, including Galleri Blunk (NO), K4 (NO), Isotop Project Space (NO) and her work has been shown at Kunstnernes Hus (NO) and ABF-huset (SE).
Before the summer 2023 Eli shared this prompt for the text she plans to write:
Late October 2023 Eli will read up the finished poem at an open event at the meadow near Hauketo, Oslo. Afterwards the original poem will be dug down at the meadow. Watch my instagram @sarah.sikorie for news and info about this event.