Our floating work of art is called CADDIS – why?
Caddis or caddisflies are group of insects that spend part of their life cycle living underwater in streams, ponds, and canals and then emerge as adults to live above the water. The larval part of their life cycle is spent underwater and some species make cases that they live in to protect their bodies. The case is carefully made by the larvae from specially chosen materials that it finds in its underwater environment. The different species make identifiably different designs and the materials vary in size, from grains of sand to quite large twigs. The materials are fastened together by a material that the insect produces, similar to silk. Caddis cases are true works of insect engineering and act to funnel oxygenated water and food to the insect as well as providing protection and camouflage.
If you have ever been pond dipping as a child or with children (or if like me, just for kicks as an adult) it is likely that you will have found one of these creatures quirkily hauling its usually roughly tubular case around with legs protruding at the front.
When the idea of the project was first discussed at Playful Anywhere we were really interested in the metaphors that this clever and industrious creature brought to mind – using found local things but selecting and designing what we made, the idea of metamorphosis – change from an underwater form emerging to life above water, and this is a creature that lives in the very water-bodies that our project sought to explore. So we set out to build something a bit like the structure a Caddis larvae makes but made from information, collected stories, flood data – all things that we aimed to seek out and find from our local environment of Kirkstall.
I was lucky to be go along to an event by a group of Liverpool-based artists, Hwa Young Jung, Glenn Boulter and Ross Dalziel, collectively called Domestic Science for one of their OK Sparks! Events at Wray Castle back in May. The castle is a National Trust property that has had a fascinating range of uses and OK Sparks! sought to look at engaging people with the history of the place by re-presenting the science that had been part of the various tenants work. One occupier of the place had been the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA). Wray Castle is on the shores of Windermere and formed a perfect base for the society. They are now based on the opposite side of the Lake but have actively taken daily measurements of the lake for many decades to create a data set that provides great insight into how Windermere and climate has changed.
The OK Sparks! event that I attended was focussed on the FBA’s work and showcased many types of practical freshwater science including a hands-on introduction to may of the invertebrates that live in freshwater. By a very happy accident I met as this event the world authority on Caddis, Dr. Ian Wallace. Unbelievable!
Ian told me many very interesting things about Caddis and his admiration for the insect was contagious He also agreed to classify the type of Caddis that we make! I must remember to take him up in this offer, but I think in its current incarnation it could be one of these.