I tried opening the letter that I always keep in my wallet again.
When I tried to open it, it tore a little on the worn out creased edges made by the folds. It had me thinking about folds and tearing and the aspect of sending time, and how the experience of time is heightened in a handwritten letter.
In some ways it speaks about how we forget our fold pattern when we close the letter and when it’s time to read the letter, opening it becomes difficult, even though the creases are there. Basically even to open it (reveal it), we need to remember how we folded it.
While I was thinking about folds and tearing, I happened to come across something about Moths (insect).
Moths orient themselves or get a sense of direction with the help of celestial light sources (moon or stars). It is similar to how ships used to navigate looking at the North Star.
Now, after the invention of light bulbs, they get disoriented; as if “evolution didn’t account for this adaptation”.
I was thinking about what if these moths could fly towards a light source, they can maybe work like letters migrating to the person reading it. The way moths fly towards and with the help of a light source is called transverse orientation.
The addressee could be the light source and can give direction to the letter (moth)//.
I decided to send letters which have been folded as Moths. (There have been multiple iterations in terms of the form)
Either the letter will be written and then made into moths or made into moths and then written on.
By unfurling the folded moth in order to read the letter, the moths will be completely lost or, if someone doesn’t want the moth to die, they will not be able to read the letter. Alternatively, if I write on the moth after it was made and sent it unfurled, nothing would make sense. The reader then must take their time and fold it into a moth to read it. There is also a possibility that when someone puts the moth together, a part of the letter will be lost but another message will be revealed.
The person who opens the moth to read it inevitably becomes the flame/light for the moth, for it ceases to exist. Like the popular expression, like a moth flying into a flame”.
In this way, the folded moths’ orient themselves in a certain direction rather than disorient.
I am using printed paper and the letters are handwritten. This alludes to the colonial project where we moved from the oral to the written word. The mass produced printed paper signaling industrialization and modernity and the larger project of en-‘light’-enment and how the moths had a very particular adaptation to this. They developed an adaptation where the moths closer to industrial areas would turn dark and camouflage according to their changing environment. They used it as a defense mechanism to fend off predators.
Both these ‘adaptations’ developed and acquired by the moths is how nature is structured. Our presence and the human activity disappears behind nature just like it does behind technology.
Nature as we know it has been created through various infrastructural systems.
As a continuation of this project, I thought about whether I should put these moths (letters) inside ziplock bags as specimens. That is how I had imagined the letters being sent.
After researching a little more, to my surprise, I happened to come across a letter preserved at the Cambridge University. It was addressed to Charles Darwin by a certain Albert Farn in the year 1878. He writes to Darwin enthusiastically about his discovery of what we today call ‘Industrial Melanism’ in moths due to increasing industries and factories in certain parts of England.
The article in which I found the letter talks about how this letter has been preserved only because the addressee was Charles Darwin. Darwin apparently had a “meticulous administration of letters that he sent and received – not for social but for scientific reasons.” The article also quotes the archivists at the University, “As the archivists of the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University (where much of Darwin’s library is kept) evocatively explain, ‘[h]e went back over some letters again and again as he worked on different subjects, scrawling on them in different coloured pencil, and cut them up so that he could file the pieces with relevant notes or stick them into his experiment book. Letters were dissected like specimens, every useful bit of information sucked out of them and then reincarnated in his publications.”
I find the use of the phrase ‘natural selection’ could be reimagined. I reiterate with this that creation of identities is a not so natural process and are governed and set up by external means. What may seem like a natural process un-folding, might not be natural at all. Adaptations are an archive of this ‘natural’.
The moth letters I am making tie in well as specimens. Like Darwin’s dissected letters, folding these moths also require tweezers and forceps.These work like pieces to a larger puzzle which will reveal the bio-political implication on existence itself.
All the words spoken by the moth hope to come together someday to fully make sense.