The literature on emergence and self-organization tells us that interaction between simple elements, each functioning according to its own simple rules, can give rise to complex behavior without there being any central controlling force. The cellular automata in SE/30 function in this manner, to which World Wide Ensemble also refers. Ant colonies are a classic example -- strictly regimented societies with a kind of collective intelligence produced in the interaction between the simply functioning ants. In Coexistence, a short film by Donna Conlon, an American artist living in Panama, we watch a parade of leafcutter ants moving through the rainforest for just over five minutes. Most of them are simply hauling bright green leaves (leafcutter ants collect leaves and transport them to their nests), but here and there we see an ant carrying the flag of a country such as the Netherlands or Ukraine, or one bearing, say, a peace sign. The ants march under the banners of nation-states without there being any visible consequences. They do not work together any differently, nor do they fight. Is this a take on the self-organization literature? Perhaps not. Rather, it is about the subtle discrepancy between the ants' collective behavior and the flags, signs of ideologies from the human world that look somewhat absurd here.
Leaf cutter ants live in the habit of transporting leaves to their
nest, to feed their colony and assure its survival. In this video work
we get a close-up look at an ant colony carrying political and
institutional symbols like those seen in flag parades. The friction
between the selforganised ant colony, based on evolutional strategies
rather than on law and order, and the political symbols they carry
through the woods, brings up ambivalent questions on the issue of power
and survival principles.