Life-size paper project brings insects from across the globe alive

Credit: Birmingham City University/Peter Cameron

Design students at Birmingham City University have a created a life-size installation made entirely out of paper and cardboard bringing six-legged creatures from across the globe to life to mark Insect Week as well as a return to campus.

Dozens of first-years worked around the clock to create the intricate pieces of artwork, each reflecting an anatomically created insect, on a human-sized scale using around 700 metres of paper and corrugated cardboard. 

The project, which was started during the UK’s lockdown, saw 20 students from the University’s Design for Performance: Theatre, Film and Live Events course work individually at home to research, draw and plan construction of three insects of their choosing based on any creature native to countries spanning five continents.

As Covid restrictions eased and students became more accustomed to wearing masks and being socially distanced in a studio at Birmingham’s historic School of Art building, the group came together to work around the clock to create the immersive installation.

The concept to create insects came after students who were unable to access studio space during the national lockdown, imagined the space had been overrun by creatures. The installation pays tribute to many of the buildings which have been left vacant while people across the country played their part in tackling Covid-19, and celebrates students’ return to campus. Hollie Wright, Module Leader on the Design for Performance degree course, said:

“We are so proud of this cohort. These students have worked tenaciously to produce some visually accurate models of their chosen insects using such basic materials as paper and card, developing and honing techniques to capture some of the weird and wonderful details found within this microscopic world.

To have the opportunity to bring these models together into a collaborative installation has been such a refreshing and positive end to a challenging year.”

Credit: Birmingham City University/Peter Cameron

Students on practice-based courses such as the Design for Performance degree, were able to return to campuses across the country from Monday 8 March 2021. Student Jess Ingram has designs on a career in creating immersive sets for festivals. She added: 

“We've not been at Margaret Street (home of the School of Art) for very long and so they've sort of overtaken. The idea made me uncomfortable, which is, I think, the point of it. When I began to sort of research insects, I definitely found that they made me feel really strange.

"I went for a Brazilian tree Hopper, which is just one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. So we were encouraged to try things that were that were different.

“It was so nice to be back, I think everyone felt the same when we all walked in. We can interact with each other again, speak face to face and what’s best is that we've been able to bounce off each other. I've been able to ask people and learn from people.

"It's just been so nice for that social aspect as well. Some of us have been pulling 12 hour days so it's been it's been very intense!”

The annual paper installation has picked up momentum, profile and media interest in recent years, with themes including the Great British Music Festival, World War One Centenary, and Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.

Graduates from the Birmingham School for Creative Arts discipline have gone on to work for Boomtown Fair, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Selfridges and the V&A.


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