Darkness yields to light, death yields to life. The Wake is a meditation on duality. Filmed in the Entomology Department at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Levy released 100 monarch butterflies into the darkened corridors of the museum’s collections. The haunting stillness of carefully mounted, preserved, and categorized specimens is disrupted by an almost dreamlike awakening of fluttering butterflies on cases, drawers, and cabinets. The entire collection seems to return slowly to life with movement and flight.
Like a Renaissance-era cabinet of curiosities brought to life, The Wake explores the issues Levy poetically tackles in all of her works: order and chaos, life and death, memory, nostalgia, archives, history, man’s relationship with nature, home as a temporary place, the desire for freedom. The stillness of the museum’s corridors bears silent witness to the passage of time: “A new life enters where one has left”. The ephemeral lives of these fragile insects come to represent our own inherent fragility, our desire to control and to be free, to find order and beauty in the chaos.