We holidayed in Adelaide this week, and enjoyed the glittering gems at Australian Minerals (Hahndorf) and the collection of twinkling treasures in South Australian Museum’s Iridescence exhibition. I could happily spend all day looking at the luminous stones, butterflies, shells and birds – but I do feel conflicted about looking at stuffed creatures. I thought about the museum context of mounted insects and how they would have informed Hirst’s capture of the seductive colours of butterflies in an exhibition I saw a few years ago.
As a child, I was enraptured to learn that the word “iridescence” could describe the elusive shine on bubbles and the flickering colours in oil spills on the road. I had only noticed oil colours after reading a version of The Colony of Cats, where a girl asked to be dipped in oil (rather than gold) in the hope of capturing a rainbow in her pocket. Similarly I was recently delighted to learn the word “petrichor”, even though a word can only hint at the corners of capturing an experience.
Today I had my first acupuncture session, and I was saddened for the butterflies pinned to their boards. I hope they get to fly around the exhibition at night-time, feeding on iridescence to top up their own meters.