Dieci mila farfalle saranno liberate (Tienduizend vlinders zullen worden vrijgelaten)

Mass Moving


Poster, 104 x 76 cm.
Materials: offsetdruk op papier

Collection: Collection M HKA (Inv. no. M00452).

The Butterfly Project made a big impression at the Venice Biennale in 1972. A gigantic seven-metre high cocoon was built on St. Mark's Square. Three volumes of polyurethane chicken wire were attached to a frame of scaffolding. This form of 'wild' architecture – as they called it themselves – stood in stark contrast to the static architecture of St. Mark's Square. 10,000 pupa's were transported from a laboratory in Versailles to Venice. For eight days, the public could follow the emergence of the butterflies via closed circuit television. The Mass Movers themselves lived in the incubator and provided good temperature, humidity and oxygen conditions.

Due to circumstances, the butterflies could not be released at midnight, as planned: the flight would be filmed by television crews, yet the strong spotlights would attract and burn the insects. So one waited for late afternoon the next day. The square was full of curious people. But the butterflies, suffering from the heat, showed no inclination to escape the incubator. The Mass Movers themselves described it as a beautiful failure. Still, the fluttering butterflies should have prompted the spectators to 'experience the city in a real and autonomous way, free from the sterile climate of commercial finality or intellectual illusion'.

The poster is designed by Raphaël Opstaele. Together with a photographer, several black-and-white pictures of butterflies in the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, near Brussels are taken. The first poster contains the following English text: 'mass moving project / streetwork n° 18 / brussels 1972', and: 'somewhere people move the earth'. For the Venice poster, the image is inverted with the following inscription: 'dieci mila farfalle saranno liberate' [ten thousand butterflies will be released] and 'centro di lotta biologica per la sopravvivenza'. The Center for Biological Fight for Survival will become an umbrella structure and will take shape through the rental of a greenhouse in Hoeilaart.

The idea for the butterfly bomb was born after a meeting between Raphaël Opstaele and Bernard Delville with a biologist specialised in the breeding of butterflies. Originally, they were going to commit their act of terrorism in Brussels, but the action takes on a bigger shape when they are invited to officially represent Belgium at the 36th Venice Biennale, alongside Christian Dotremont and Pierre Alechinsky. However, Opstaele and Delville ensure that the guerrilla action continues as well. At the same time, yet far from contemporary art's epicentre, several Mass Movers, including Paul Gonze, install three 'Ludic Bombs' in the Japanese capital. The first contains 4,000 butterflies and explodes at 8.30 a.m. at the entrance of a banking complex in Nihombashi. The second explodes in the afternoon on the subway between Tamashi and Hamamatsucho. The third, at 6 p.m. in Shibuya's commercial centre. The butterflies, leaving the pupal case, take flight.

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