Brute Neighbors

2001 — The title of this work comes from a chapter in Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden. In the chapter Thoreau, an author who observed and wrote about the wonderment of the world around him, describes some of the habits of the not-so-humane creatures that inhabit the forest surrounding his cabin by the lake. Among these descriptions is one about a battle between red and black ants on his wood chip pile. Thoreau humanizes the struggle drawing comparisons to our own existence.

In this work created for Boy Toys, an exhibit at Nexus Contemporary Art Center, I utilized Thoreau’s description to speak of broad contemporary issues. The tension between the large individual ant versus smaller plentiful group is an apt metaphor about daily struggles. The sleek, high gloss surfaces draw comparisons to the car culture that permeates the city of Atlanta.

Download artist statement from Boy Toys exhibit here.
Download curatorial statement from catalog here.
Brute Neighbors was expanded and became the basis for a much larger public art project at North and South Baggage Claim areas at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Nearly 200 sculptural ants march across the walls, ceiling and ductwork above the baggage claim areas, as airline passengers below navigate their way through the vast facility. The installation parallels the steaming flow of traffic below, sometimes unnoticed, but often drawing smiles as the unexpected but undeniably similar behavioral patterns are recognized. In a nod to the sleek, high performance vehicles that reflect modern transportation, the ants sport high gloss surfaces and machined details. Brute Neighbors received the 2002 Atlanta Urban Design Commission Award for Excellence in Public Art and was cited by Art In America as one of the top public art projects in 2002.

© Joseph Peragine