Sleeping sickness, 2012
Installation composed of a couple of tsetse flies presented on a marble block under glass, over a plinth
170 x 50 x 50 cm (marble block 48 x 48 x 4 cm, glass 50 x 50 x 50 cm)
Sleeping Sickness (2012) consists of two tsetse flies on a simple white plinth. Apparently sleeping, the two insects seem identical, but in fact, they are a fertile female and her sterile consort. Phinthong’s project continues beyond the visible work originally developed for the Documenta 13 in Kassel and delves into the field of Africa’s deadly epidemic disease and possible ways to control it. The artist studied this subject on an extensive research trip in Ethiopia,Tanzania, and Zambia, the central areas of the experimental quest for ecological and sustainable measures against tsetse flies, which every year infect and kill thousands of people with sleeping sickness.
Together with local experts, Phinthong invests in simple, inexpensive traps with which tsetse populations can be monitored and effectively controlled as a possible alternative to the method of sterilizing male flies by irradiation. Gathering together an artistical institution in Europe, its topic and financial founding, with a public health reality in Africa, the artist plays with the notion of correspondence between reality and its representation, shifting from one economy to the other.