Turning Around and Upside Down: Taki, Tiam and the Nomadic Rhythms of Rain Ants

The works illustrated here derive from an ongoing multispecies art project that follows nomadic ants across the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In Sarayaku, alternative political realities and knowledge- making practices for weaving relations with the forest challenge Western aesthetic conventions for sensing and relating to other social beings. Here, entities, places, materials and elements are entangled in the cosmology of Kawsak Sacha, the living forest. Encompassed within the Kawsak Sacha, life and death boundaries are interwoven through relations that move to the rhythms of a medium in formation.1 In this sense, rhythm, as an idiom based on the Kichwa principles of taki and tiam, enables my performative practice with nomad ants and a different way of understanding their social forms.2


1. Tim Ingold, ‘Earth, Sky, Wind, and Weather’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 13, issue s1, 2007, pp. S19–S38; Eben Kirksey, Emergent Ecologies, Duke University Press, Durham, N.C., 2015.

2. Antonia Carcel.n-Estrada, ‘Weaving Abya-Yala: The Decolonial Aesthetics of Indigenous Resistance’, New Diversities Journal, vol. 19, no. 2, 2017, pp. 103–17.



Title image:

Kuai Shen
Inverted Bivouac, 2019 (detail)
Still from HD video using edge
detection in computer vision with
Courtesy of the artist

Kuai Shen, media artist and ant lover from Ecuador, is currently working on his practice-based PhD at Deakin University, Melbourne. In cooperation with ants, he generates techno-ecological installations and performances that explore the concept of invertebrate aesthesis, problematising the entanglement between nonhuman subjectivity and scientific objectivity. His research has been published in journals such as Society & Animals and Acoustic Space and in the book Biologically-Inspired Computing for the Arts (ed. Anna Ursyn, IGI Global, 2012). His work has been exhibited at a number of international venues and has received several awards: the 2016 Bridge Stipend from Michigan State University, the 2014 Cynetart Award of the Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture and, in 2013, an honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica as well as the Edith-Russ-Haus Media Art Prize.