Who’s The Pest?

Exploring our complex relationship with insects

Curator: Bridget Nicholls | Partner: The Wellcome Trust | Sponsor: Wellcome Collection

Susana Soares, Medical designer / artist. Bee Chamber

Who’s the Pest?

Who’s the Pest was an illuminating and thought provoking month long series that explored our complex, symbiotic relationship with insects including a series of debates, installations, walks, workshops and dinners, specifically cultivated to challenge our perceptions of life alongside arthropods.

Participants were invited to view existence from both sides of the undergrowth. There were talks such as Insects Vs Humans and the Secret Insects of Bloomsbury, an excursion with Professor James Logan, inviting visitors on a journey to unearth indigenous dwellers and giving unique insight into ‘the macabre entomological collections’ of the Grant Museum.

Nordic Food Lab

At the heart of the showcase was the very serious issue of sustainable livestock and the global consumption crisis. With mini multi-legged animals providing low-fat, high-protein nutrition to 80% of the world’s population, the solution to the impending global food crisis could be right under our feet.

Pestival looked at this from two viewpoints; firstly with medical designer, Susana Soares’ installation Insects au Gratin, looking at a table top, 3D printed protein biscuit to stop the global food crisis. Secondly, we worked with Nordic Food Lab, a body for culinary research established by the founders of Noma to work out how to consume insects sustainably and with respect as they are done so already around the world. The full programme can be accessed via The Wellcome Collection’s archives.

Computer Game

Who’s The Pest? even inspired a computer game, developed by Pestival and Wellcome Collection in 2013. The game allows the viewer to see insect activity from both the human and insect perspective, aiming to encourage players to take a fresh look at the creatures we commonly think of as ‘pests’. In April 2013 the game was hailed ‘App of the Day’. It was the Wellcome Collection’s biggest game project to date, and their first venture into multiple platforms: Who’s the Pest? was available to play both on the web and in the Apple app store.
Find out more and how the game was developed via the Wellcome Collection’s Who’s The Pest game Tumblr.

Radio Series

Radio 4 got the insect buzz with a three part series in which entomologist Erica McAlister took a look at, among other things, the use of insects’ incredible sense of smell to detect explosives and diseases. The series bears the same name as the Pestival event series – Who’s the Pest? – and features many of the collaborators involved. It was based on a concept and original research by our Pestival founder, Bridget Nicholls. All three episodes are available online.

Series Consultant: Bridget Nicholls, Director, Pestival.

Episode 1:
In Episode One, Erica investigates insects’ superpowers.

Episode 2:
In Episode Two, Erica asks whether we should be eating more insects.

Episode 3:
In Episode Three, Erica explores how insect technology can solve human design problems.