Théâtre De l’Inconnu

Mara Eagle is an American artist based in Montreal working in a wide range of media. Her work explores ways in which Western philosophy, science and literature have formulated a concept of nature through discursive, methodological and representational means.

In Théâtre de l’Inconnu, a faltering narrator recounts the life cycle of Saturniids — giant winged insects. The two-channel video installation manipulates elements borrowed from several National Geographic flower time-lapses, the 19th-century opera “Adriana Lecouvreur” and excerpts from various literary, scientific and ancient texts. The work’s title gestures toward early modern scientific compendiums, such as Thomas Muffet’s “Theatre of Insects” (1658), as well as architectures designed for viewing, such as dissection amphitheaters, operating theaters and entertainment venues for performance and cinema. 

Also a venue for spectacle and observation, the gallery space is filled with an inflatable sculpture of a giant silk gland sheathed in metallic casing that doubles as seating for viewers. This extracted organ is based on photos from current research attempts to engineer transgenic silkworms whose glands have been modified to produce human collagen for use in cosmetic products. At once tragic, satirical and monumental, the installation explores how Western practices of sight, description and representation have produced and sustained a concept of nature amenable to industrialization and exploitation.