Impression, proche orient » Ant Farm Nablus (Palestine 2011)



Al-Aswad house | Al-Yassmineh | Nablus, Palestine

Installation for the “Between Ebal and Gerzim” exhibition produced by the Birzeit University Museum and ArtSchool Palestine

ANT FARM NABLUS (AFN) addresses the problems inherent in academicizing, aestheticizing and glorifying contemporary warfare. For this, Tom Bogaert examines the theme of ‘inverse geometry’ a so-called ‘high concept spatial technique’ used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in their 2002 offensive against the Palestinian resistance in Nablus and described by Eyal Weizman in his Walking Through Walls:

“…During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of meters of ‘overground tunnels’ […] the military borrowed metaphors from the world of aggregate animal formation as ‘swarming’ and ‘infestation’ […] the IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare, a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux…”

Starting point for ‘Ant Farm Nablus’ (AFN) is a map of the old city of Nablus made of translucent ‘agar-agar’ – a vegetarian gelatin substitute. The map functions as an ant farm as the gel serves as both habitat and nutrition for the ants. This allows the viewer to watch the ants turn the gel map into a colony of tunnels. ‘Ant Farm Nablus’ at this stage depicts what it means to be able to bend space to your own particular navigational, political, biblical and military needs.


During the past decade, the ant farm industry has changed dramatically. Classic ant farms were nothing more than two walls of plastic or glass with sand or dirt in between. Now there is something called ‘ant gel.’ Ant gel is a new space-age material specifically designed to act as a substrate, food and water source for ants living in an enclosed ant farm.

Ant gel is a nutrient-rich gel made from seaweed extracts rich in water, amino acids and sugars to help the ants thrive without adding additional food or water to the farm. The gel also has a fungicide to keep it from rotting even with the high moisture content.