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Of Mice And Mozart: Experimental Art Created By Snails And Rodents

Despite that most artists would cite nature as source of inspiration, very few actually incorporate living forms into their work (with the exception of Mira Calix’s Nunu, of course. However, tech artists Quiet Ensemble use rodents and insects—pests that many a suburban house wife has tried desperately to extinguish from their garden—in their new pieces Orienta; è Qui Ora, Che Decido di Fermarm (Orientation, It is Here Now, That I Decide to Stop) and Orchestra Da Camera (Chamber Orchestra).

In our previous Q&A with Fabio di Salvo and Bernardo Vercelli, the duo that make up Quiet Ensemble, they told us how they “focus on the greatness of small events, observing natural elements and mixing them with technology.” In both of these new pieces this mixture of technology and small, overlooked natural details creates two unique and compelling pieces.

In Orchestra Da Camera (above), mice create a symphony by running on the always-metaphorical hamster wheel. Although the mechanisms are programmed with lullabies by Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart the active role of the mice, who decide when to pluck the music-box instruments by running on their wheels, alters the songs which become unrecognizable, and thus a creation of the mice themselves.


Orienta; è Qui Ora, Che Decido di Fermarm (above and below) takes a more visual approach to documenting the lives of these creatures. In this piece we visually follow a day’s journey as taken by snails. Using light painting the trails are followed, turning “a day in the life” into abstract art.

Oscar Wilde once wrote in The Decay of Lying how things become beautiful only because artists and poets have taught people to believe they are beautiful. Saying that, for example, although London has always been a grey, foggy city “where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gaslamps and changing the houses into monstrous shadows?”

With Wilde’s life-imitating-art perspective in mind, perhaps the next time you see a snail you’ll notice the beauty of its haphazard, snotty trail.

@megyoungblood