Why do some frogs fail to develop a complete set of limbs while others develop extra limbs? Is it the result violent parasites? Or maybe chemical pollution? In Brandon Ballengee‘s latest project, the artist takes his scientific research on amphibians and turns it into curious displays of art. Currently on exhibit at the Parco d’Arte Vivente in Turin, Italy, ‘Malamp‘ is an installation featuring the glowing skeletons of deformed frogs, each eerily depicted in photos or sprawled out in petri dishes. As a look into the impact of modern living and industry on the Earth’s ecology, read on to learn more about this intriguing exhibit where art truly leaps into the realm of science.
Ballengee is a biological-artist who has been cited by the BBC as major contributer to the research on frog deformation. With Malamp, Ballengee headed to the wetlands and marshes collecting deformed amphibians with hopes of learning more about the origins of their deformation. A somewhat tedious process, the artist cleaned and stained each inch of the frog’s anatomy with a different color — a task which not only produced a beautiful medium for art, but became an imperative to helping scientists better understand the nature of the deformation. From his research, Ballengee found that the culprit responsible for frogs’ missing or excess limbs were a pair of parasites — a dragonfly nymphs that feed on the legs of young tadpoles, and the riberoria trematodes, a kind of flatworm that rearranges limb bud cells and causes frogs to develop extra legs.
But don’t think that this is simply nature at work — irregardless of such findings, Ballengee and a number of his partners still hold strong to the idea that chemical pollution has been a major contributor to the excessive deformities seen in amphibians. They believe that these unsavory environmental elements have in fact increased infections and compromised immune systems, slowly debilitating the natural growth process and making frogs more susceptible to parasites.
Ultimately, whatever the cause may be, the artist considers amphibians to be biology’s answer to the coal mine canary — a corner of life that needs to be carefully observed to monitor our well being as well as the frogs’ itself. With Malamp, Ballengee hopes that by depicting his findings as accessible art, he will be able to open eyes of the the world to the environmental issues that concern us all.