“Army Ants and their Guests: Works Inspired by the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Collection” and “Immaterial Remains: Can You Preserve a Shadow?”, October 17, 2019-February 9, 2020

In collaboration with the AntU project through UConn’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, the Ballard Institute presents Army Ants and their Guests: Works Inspired by the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Collection to celebrate the Rettenmeyer army ant collection. AntU is a UConn endeavor designed to involve a variety of academic disciplines to engage a broad audience in the wonders of the complex biological systems of army ants and their hundreds of associated “guests”. The idea was borne out of an award from the National Science Foundation to preserve and curate the Carl W. and Marian E. Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection. Army Ants and their Guests will feature ant and insect puppets from Rufus and Margo Rose’s Ant and the Grasshopper, and toy theaters created during a two-day community workshop inspired by the AntU project, as well as an array of specially commissioned new works by puppeteers from around the world, including Sirikarn Bunjongtad, Sarah Frechette, Honey Goodenough, Dirk Joseph, Stephen Kaplin, Monica Leo, Tarish Pipkins, Poncili Creacion, and Miss Pussycat. This project was made possible through an award from the National Science Foundation.

The Ballard Institute will also present Immaterial Remains: Can You Preserve a Shadow?, curated by researcher, theater artist, and practitioner of Chinese shadow puppetry Dr. Annie Rollins. As the practice of Chinese shadow puppetry navigates survival in situ, the traditional shadow puppets are dying by the thousands: neglected to ruin, strung up, misunderstood or framed in permanent silence in the name of “preservation”. Soon, these static shadow bodies will be the only traces of the living form that remain. Immaterial Remains captures the vision of a ghostly Chinese shadow puppet future with ethnographic documentation, artifact exhibition, video projection, and creative explorations of shadow preservation. The exhibit opening will feature a live performance/lecture by Annie Rollins.

Annie Rollins is a researcher, theatre artist, and practitioner of Chinese shadow puppetry, studying as a traditional apprentice since 2008. Rollins has received a Fulbright Fellowship, the Confucius Institute Joint PhD Research Fellowship and a Canadian SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship for her research. She completed her dissertation in Concordia University’s Interdisciplinary Humanities PhD program on the transmission of traditional Chinese shadow puppet-making methods. Recent venues for exhibitions, lectures and performances include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Montreal Botanical Gardens, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, the Virginia Fine Arts Museum, the Linden Center in Yunnan, China, and the Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands. Annie has published articles in Puppetry International, Asian Theatre Journal and Anthropology Now. Rollins recently launched the first English language comprehensive Chinese shadow puppetry site at www.chineseshadowpuppetry.com. Annie Rollins will also present her talk Chasing Ghosts: Ten Years with the Shadow Puppeteers of China as part of the 2019 Fall Puppet Forum Series on Dec. 5, 2019 at 7 p.m.

Both exhibits are on display through February 9, 2020.