Jim Frazer

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Glyphs: I was not at first aware when the beetle tracks started showing up in my photographs. They’re not the kind of thing you wake up and decide to go pursue. If you’re in the woods, and you find these intricate engravings more or less staring you in the face, you take a picture. Only later, I began to pay real attention to the patterns.

At the same time, I had been doing some work that involved the repetition of circles, and I had discovered the paper drill, which is a bookbinding tool, as a method to make uniform circular holes one after another. The circles – the units forming the sequence – repeat, but
the linear arrangement grows without a predetermined pattern, the only rule being that each circle has to be directly adjacent to the one right before it.

The beetle galleries were similar in that they wandered, seemingly randomly, but their paths formed linear, calligraphic signatures that reminded me of the tugras, or personal ciphers of the Ottoman sultans. These symbols, composed of stylized interwoven strokes, were unique to each ruler and served to validate each document he wrote. In the woods, there are thousands of beetles, from thousands of species, in thousands of trees, and each one leaves a trail as different as a fingerprint and as elegant as the Sultan’s signature. Each trail is composed of thousands of bites taken over a period of months as the larva grows and matures. Rather than the sure stroke of the calligrapher’s pen, the path literally grows with the insect.

There is some comfort in repetition. You know what you’re going to do next, even if the final outcome is yet to be revealed. Just as the beetle’s track grows from repetition, the holes in the paper repeat, one following another, gradually forming patterns of lace around the outline of the beetle galleries.

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