Urban Moths







What would happen if moths had the capacity to rapidly change to protect themselves in an contemporary environment?


The moth reimagined







McMoth 2016



March 2016


We've been playing with ideas of the moth adapting to the surroundings which have been affected by man. Using images from the iconic to the generic we've created a series of 'moths' from a fine porcelain with digital transfer imagery. They're eerie, disturbing and beautiful at the same time.





25th April 2016


Taking our concept of the urban moth we've been talking to the Manchester Museum about researching their collection of moths (the third largest in the UK). They've been incredibly generous in both their welcome, their information and in opening their fabulous archives to us.


Today we did some behind the scenes research in the Entomology department. Focusing primarily on moths we were able to draw and photograph and, most importantly, ask dozens of questions of the very patient curators and research staff.


The Museum is working towards an exhibition in the autumn regarding extinction. Rather conveniently our ideas about reimagining how a moth might evolve into a contemporary environment fit neatly into this subject.


Whilst the arts and the sciences don't always make easy bedfellow, we've been lucky to find common ground with an organisation who value both strands of research as valid and just different ways of looking at the same subject.


We're starting to think how our moths can fit into the museum in a meaningful way.




May 2016


During May we've started to investigate the collection the moths at the Manchester museum whilst keeping in mind the entire context of the museum and how our moths might adapt to this unique environment.


We've spent a good deal of time photographing and drawing from the collection whilst asking endless questions. We have has a very warm and generous welcome and even did an interview with the Curator of Arthropods Dmitri Logunov about the now extinct giant earwig of St Helena......That was fun!!






Above: Research drawing from artists' sketch books


Right: Close up of Nevii Linn moth under fibre optic light











We've also been investigating the museum itself. Not just the objects and artifacts of the collections but the textures and architecture of the place too. Is there an opportunity to make a whole collection of moths which have adapted to this very distinctive and unique environment?







































Current research strands, musings and abstract thoughts:


  • How can we re-imgine the moth for an artistic AND educational purposes which will satisfy the ambitions of both ourselves and the museum?
  • Is this a campaign?
  • Whilst we have strong views about the future of the planet, we're not particularly political artists. Whilst dealing with this subject we are inevitably going to make a statement about our views.
  • This project was initially based upon that tiny nugget of an idea that you can't quite remember where it came from. Was it a butterfly resting on some detritis in a park or one of our random conversations about an artwork that one of us had seen? During the progression and development we've responded to both the collection and the space of the museum. Now we have aspects of the museum context ranging from their curatorial agenda to the architecture. We almost have too much information to deal with. Next job is to filter down.


Try, analyse, talk, draw, try again.



Potential outcomes:


A series of porcelain moths which will adorn their 'chosen' environments within the museum

A field guide to the 'Manchester Museum' moth population

A nature trail through the Museum using moths as markers and highlighting exhibits pertinent to the 'embracing all living beings' brief.



June/July 2016


The moths are evolving.


During a torrential photoshoot at Jumbles country park in Bury, some of the early porcelain moths were photographed in-situ.


The concrete moth


Meanwhile, Angela is working on some more porcelain moths. Multiple sizes but similar shapes. An entire genus of our imagined species. There are technical dificulties. Porcelain being slightly uncooperative resulting in about one in five moths surviving. Some homemade paper clay with its qualities of strength and lightness might be the answer.



August 2016


Making: Dozens of porcelain moths


After the first 50 there's a rhythm appears and they're neater, quicker and there are less casualties (perhaps one in two survives).


As with all ceramic processes it's long winded with a lot of patience required.




















Raw porcelain moths on kiln shelf                                                Moths after two firings with glaze























Attaching decals to moths






Each individual piece will have three different temperature firings in an electric kiln


Firing one to 999 degrees C to set the clay

Firing two to 1250 degrees C to mature both the porcelain and the glaze

Firing three to 860 gegrees C to permanently attach the images to the glaze



Update - Late 2016


We have some outcomes from the porject:


Antique display case with over 120 porcelain moths




The field guide to the Urban Moth





The moths in the display case vary. The McMoth, a species which dwells outside of the museum but within close proximity, feeds upon the sugary remains left by humans and seldom ventures indoors where the maintainence man is a natural preditor. At the other end of the spectrum, the grey feather moth is positively encouraged by curators and conservators. It is the only carniverous moth and feeds upon tiny parasites which have been known as the curse of the taxidermy pieces throughout the world’s collections.


The Field Guide to the Urban Moth of the Manchester Museum plots the distribution and distinguishing features of all the known moth species. Whilst this book amuses, delights and confuses, the unavoidable undercurrent is the impact that man has upon nature. In an organisation dedicated to remembering, conserving and educating, the urban moth further questions these constructs.




Urban moths will go on show at the Manchester Museum in January 2016




Update March 2017




Both the moths and the 'Entomological guise to the Urban Moth' are on show at the Manchester Museum on the top floor until further notice.


Last week Angela and Ian ran a workshop at the museum's late night event. They made a series of cyanotype prints based upon the project. The intention is to create a further book to accompany the field guide.


Gleefully reappropriating Anna Atkins' title and aesthetic, the artists are creating a catalogue of the collection. This work will rest somewhere between an archive and an artwork. Again they are playfully confronting ideas of what is real whilst reinforcing the political and environmental message of the work.