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still from Soundtrack to a Coup D'État (Johan Grimonprez, 2023)

Johan Grimonprez - Soul of the Ant (artist talk)

Grimonprez began research for his new film Soundtrack to a Coup d'Etat in the mines of Congo, cutting through the loaded colonial history layer by layer. He came up with an intriguing way of mixing politics with biology. Starting with the conflicts surrounding the mines of Congo, he introduces us to a number of symbiotic communities: from bee and termite colonies to the bacteria Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered under his microscope, organisms with which we form a symbiotic ecology.

Poster Eye on Art Grimonprez

Darwin labelled social insects like bees or termites ‘inconvenient animals.’ Their sociability, or rather ‘sisterhood’, didn’t fit any existing categorisation. For ages, philosophers and entomologists have pondered how the individual relates to the collective. What is one termite? Is it the individual ant, or its colony?

Biology & politics are not-so-strange bedfellows. When looking at those looking at termites, science becomes storytelling. South-African writer Eugène Marais was able to prove the socialist nature of termite colonies; Flemish writer Maurice Maeterlinck plagiarised Marais to conclude the exact opposite: they were capitalists. The termite research of Aldous Huxley’s brother’s inspired Brave New World’s dystopian worldview. And symbiont termites led Lynn Margulis to the concept of evolutionary cooperation, the idea that species evolve through the intimacy of strangers.

To understand termites, Marais wrote, we need to learn a new alphabet. Exploring stories of belonging and exclusion, Grimonprez’ new film searches out this alphabet of togetherness.

This Eye on Art evening is a collaboration between Eye and Transnatural and is part of The Unknown Mine Zone exhibition and programming. The programme features artists, designers and architects investigating alternatives to the deficiencies in resources, food and materials we will be facing in the future.

The exhibition can be visited until Sept 3 at Transnatural, Jan van Galenstraat 125 in Amsterdam. For more information visit



90 min.

Part of

Cinema Ecologica

Much in life is uncertain, but one thing is sure, and that’s the current climate crisis. Cinema Ecologica shows us how filmmakers have been imagining the relationship between humankind and planet Earth, ranging from nerve-racking disaster films to artistic meditations, from romantic experiences of nature to bewildering SF.

Learn more
campaign image Cinema Ecologica

Why in Eye

Grimonprez’ search of archival footage, including Eye’s, has resulted in a lively and amazing story about termite colonies, colonial history and the need to work together.

Still Soundtrack to a Coup D État Johan Grimonprez 2023 1
Johan Grimonprez - Soul of the Ant

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