Moth Kota: a sculpture to attract both humans and moths

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Over the past year Hannah Imlach, Artist and Researcher, has been designing and building a ‘Moth Kota’. An innovative sculpture that  creates a space for moths and humans.

“We are living in a period of climate chaos, and artists have always made work about things that are pressing and urgent. My sculpture brings people and moths together.”

Over the past year Hannah Imlach, Artist and Researcher, has been designing and building a ‘Moth Kota’. An innovative sculpture that designed to create a space for moths and humans. Hannah’s project aims to ensure that the human encounter with these delicate nocturnal creatures is ethical.

The Moth Kota was one of the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s student research awards – which support student projects with a focus on innovative, multi-disciplinary research for the public good.

Melissa Terras, Director of Research at the Edinburgh Futures Institute said:

“We’re delighted to see the success of Hannah Imlach’s Moth Kota. It demonstrates the type of work – in the space between art, nature and digital that EFI Research is excited to explore. The Futures Institute Student Research Projects scheme supports the student community, and encourages students to work on ambitious, interdisciplinary projects, that engage with digital aspects of EFI’s core research themes.”

Design challenge

The complex project involved over 8-months of consultation with a range of stakeholders, including the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), wardens, ecologists and moth recorders. All engaged with an iterative design process, involving 3D virtual modelling and experimental fabrication techniques.

Building began in early June 2021 at the Sculpture and Design workshop in Glasgow, and was completed and installed in a woodland clearing at RSPB Loch Lomand. Challenges included access to materials – the supply chains for which were disrupted by the pandemic.

Partnership with RSPB

Hannah Imlach developed the Moth Kota event programme in partnership with RSPB public engagement and communication staff, principally Community Engagement Officer Emma Martinelli.

Events for the public ranged from self-guided daytime experiences, where the people could observe lepidoptera within the structure, to evening events that gave the opportunity to explore the woodland by lantern-light, sit inside Moth Kota and witness moths in their animated state. The events, which were very well attended, let visitors experience the artwork, and encounter moths at different time of day and in various phases of activity.

Hannah hosted ‘Release’ events with moth expert Alan Kerr, who helped participants identify and record the species they encountered and gave information on moth lifecycles and habitats.

RSPB Loch Lomond Site Manager Paula Baker said:

‘Moth Kota was a unique collaboration project which involved a different people and organisations, RSPB Scotland being one. The feedback we received during and after the event programme was incredible. This project allowed the RSPB to attract a very different audience to one of our Nature Reserves, and likewise our regular audience was able to experience an art installation that was perfectly balanced within the natural environment. The impacts will be long lasting and we look forward to continuing to work with Hannah.’

Ongoing research and artistic impact

Throughout the project Hannah was able to create high quality artwork documentation and gather participant responses to underpin and extend her ongoing PhD research.

Documenting and recording the process and installation of Moth Kota was principally through photography, video clips, sketchbook pages, recorded meetings and conversations, planning documents, and design versions. All of these materials will prove central to her ongoing research, allowing reflection on creative practice and partnership working, and influencing the direction of subsequent artworks and research outcomes.

I was extremely grateful to receive an Edinburgh Futures Institute award. The fund enabled me to realise, adapt and extend the Moth Kota artwork in response to the ecology of the Loch Lomond site and the challenges of the pandemic.”

Hannah also filmed a 13-minute artist film of Moth Kota, created with Director of Photography Andrew Begg and Sound Designer and Composer Thomas Butler. The film will be screened in artistic, academic and conservation contexts.

Hannah Imlach is a visual artist working predominantly in sculpture and photography. Her transient and site-specific works respond to particular ecologies, exploring sites of environmental conservation and renewable energy transition. Hannah is a practice research PhD candidate within Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.

More about Hannah Imlach’s work here:

More about Edinburgh Futures Institute’s third annual call for student projects:

Watch the short BBC feature about the Moth Kota project

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