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Death Spiral

The Death Spiral, 2019
Michal Lazarovitz
The blind ants have a dangerous tendency to commit mass suicide just because they're following a leader. Most ants navigate just like humans, through the sense of sight. But a certain type of ant is completely blind, walking one after the other as they follow a trail of odor molecules (pheromones) secreted by their sisters. What happens when one of them gets confused and creates a disturbance in the sensory instinct? This bizarre phenomenon (is officially called an ‘’Ant Death Spiral") occurs when one ant in the group loses the "scent path", in other words it loses its way.
The result will be that the other ants follow the ant that has become the leader, moving one after the other in a continuous and endless spiral, a vortex created by the trail of smell. Because of their blindness, the ants cannot escape the deadly loop. They move one after the other, until the inevitable mass annihilation, as they eventually die of exhaustion.
In the video composition that is screened in the exhibition,“The Death Spiral”, 2019, I tempt the viewers with a fascinating and even hypnotizing image. Yet the non-visual part, the story behind the image, is no less significant. I would even say that the story is crucial for understanding the work. The scene ranges from a Sufi dance of whirling dervishes to an act of mass suicide.
Lately, I have been employing a practice of layering drawings one over the other, a multiplicity of screens. Manual and digital drawings and various videos—they are all in the studio in a constant process of becoming. I construct a world of lines, create layers, and in the exhibition I connect everything together.
My intervention in the video is functional: for example, the idea of lighting up specific points or even the idea of illustrating an ideal movement, such as the sperms in the video, which illustrate and mark the optimal movement of the ants. I follow the natural and material happenstance and find shapes within it; in fact, like the ants that identify a given movement and follow it. The spiral movement,from my point of view, is a primal movement. It is the movement of whirlpools in the water, the movement of the galaxy, and yes, also the movement of ants trying to commit suicide.
In this work, a technological-algorithmic intervention using Optical Flow technology was used to track points of interest in the video using a code adapted to the video. This intervention created a visualization of the act of following the mass of ants and a sampling of anonymous ants. Tracking was implemented by layers, one on top of the other.
Click here to read the text in Hebrew
Curator: Nicola Trezzi
Post Graduate Studies Final Group Exhibition, Hamidrasha Gallery Hayarkon 19, Tel Aviv.
Death Spiral
The hypnotizing video and sound installation of Michal Lazarovitz is a tantalizing ode to the power of nature, a celebration of its order – an order we are truly part of, an order we belong to, whether we like it or not – through the support of technological devices. The starting point is the found footage documenting the movement of blind ants, a type of insect that is known for the so-called Death Spiral (which is also the title of Lazarovitz’s work). This peculiar and revelatory phenomenon sees an entire community of ants following the smell of one leader until they all die from exhaustion. In order to emphasize the formal beauty of such tragedy in the world of nature, the artist has employed the Optical Flow Algorithm to track the movements of the ants and create, thanks to the accompaniment of Sufi music, a multilayered experiences in which mankind and animal, the natural and the artificial, image and drawing become two sides of the same coin.

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