a flocking herd of filings (2021)
200 gr. iron filings
560 gr. ferrite magnet
35 x 23 x 23 cm glass enclosure
Individuals acting collectively as part of a group, following the majority and not making their own decisions. Herd behaviour. a flocking herd of filings imitates this behaviour by grouping together iron particles and making them move in the same direction by creating a circulating magnetic field. The creatures symbolize the symbiotic yet ignorant tendency of both animals and humans to rather follow the behaviour of the majority, than go against it.

This work was made in collaboration with Thomas de Bruijn and Marinus van den Oever.

The starting point for a flocking herd of filings was not necessarily a certain characteristic in an individual creature, but rather a characteristic within a group of creatures. Where one small individual seems insignificant, but where a group of individuals becomes powerful.
This can also be seen in humans. Generally, people look for a group that confirms their way of thinking, resulting in a feeling of belonging. As the community continues to grow, the temptation to participate increases.

The attractive property of magnetic fields is similar to the attraction in herd behaviour. The force of a magnet attracts individual iron filings that seem insignificant on their own, but look impressive, almost threatening, when moving as a collective. The iron particles take on fascinating patterns when the magnet comes close, exposing the magnetic fields underneath. The furry texture feels quite organic, almost hairy, but is also very spiky, giving it a dangerous appearance. In nature, this characteristic would reflect as a form of self-protection.
Another natural form of self-protection, or in this case group-preservation, is insularity. The individuals in the group will collectively try to shut out the outsider. Anything foreign that comes in the herd, but does not belong, will be pushed out, slowly but certain, by the group as all the particles unify as one.

Starting from one individual, but highly influential filing, building up to countless iron particles. The experience of the work shows this process. Slowly, more and more particles gather in the enclosure where they become part of the herd, dragging in any new filings that come near.
The cycle continues until the herd reaches a peaceful phase of symbiotic tranquillity. It goes round in an endless cycle, a wave of motion echoing through the enclosure. Filings that remain on the side still seem highly intrigued as they move along when the wave passes by. Shouldn't they join the herd too?
This work was presented at the Critters Expo, as part of the Days of Art and Science and Nacht van Ontdekkingen in Leiden on September 14, 15, and 16, 2023.