Absence is a construct (a distinctly anthropocentric one) which typically masks a denial of some or other presence. Whenever we encounter an apparent absence, we should perhaps ask: “here, at this site, who or what is denying the presence of what or whom?
A first visit to Bergen’s natural history museum, in Spring 2018, reveals a building that is, in insect terms, a chrysalis. During the extended hiatus created by its long closure and renovation, the museum has become a cloistered site of transition; a “pupa”. Shut to visitors and having experienced the removal of almost its entire collection, it has come to represent a site in parenthesis; one apparently characterised by absence; left to display room after room of unoccupied exhibition cases, creating a spectacle of emptiness.
Here, at the museum, silence is the disavowal which surrounds the presence of the “illegitimate” bodies which the institution acknowledges only in so far as is necessary for their identification and elimination.
If the “gaps” that first suggested themselves at the natural history museum were the ones created by the disappearance of its visitors and its collection, a second and even more intriguing gap soon emerged created by the institutional silence surrounding the complex and all-but invisible ecosystem of organisms: the “infestations”, which inhabit the museum’s buildings and indeed some of its specimens.
The Wrong Bodies
Bodies without provenance,
We inhabited the museum’s gaps.
Consuming matter, erasing data,
Condemned as pests.
An illegitimate ecosystem,
Acknowledged only by attempts to eradicate our presence.
We are the wrong bodies,
Fixed not in amber, but in glue.
Captured and catalogued,
We become specimens.
A shadow collection.
A Shadow Collection
‘it is absolutely not allowed to bring living, natural material into the building.’ 
Despite assiduously protecting the integrity of its collection, “foreign bodies” continue to penetrate and proliferate within the museum’s walls. Their corpses - systematically captured and catalogued - create a parody of the institution’s public collections of specimens; a shadow collection.
A natural history collection of specimens, sees the imperative of creating order to include policing the material and institutional boundaries of the archive. On the one hand, categorising certain bodies as “licit”, as acceptable; granting them admission to the collection and giving them the title of “specimens” or exhibits. These are the museum’s “right bodies”. On the other hand, working to exclude “the wrong bodies”; those bodies that are deemed illicit; those given the label of “pests” or “infestations” and which are the subject of determined attempts to exclude and eradicate them from the physical and institutional corpus of the collection and the museum.
The museum’s relationship with its “infestations” reveals its reflexive urge to collect, spawning a unique paraphernalia of entrapment and classification.
If my investigation as a whole seems to be coalescing around the phenomenon of institutional and interpersonal silences and what they conceal, then here at the museum, it is the body itself, which curiously emerges as the “unspoken” object of such silences and of the repression that often seems to accompany them.
The Falling Birds
‘They made a coat of plastic for the whole house. It was beautifully done and it looked so ridiculous and we laughed.
‘Why did they do this packing up? That was the most that we could see and the answer was so that the poison should stay inside the building. It should not go outside the building, in order to function better, but the idea never occurred to me that it could be poisonous for people going outside as well. It must have been. This is an old building. There is presumably a lot of leakages in such an old building, so we can imagine holes here and there and so I’m sure that if there was a very dangerous poison inside, they really needed to take care.’
The institutional silence that surrounds the museum’s relationship to the organisms which comprise the “wrong bodies” in its midst, is punctuated by occasional moments of public rupture and crisis. In 1979, the natural history museum was wrapped in plastic, in preparation for an attempt to eradicate an infestation of Vepsebolklanner (“wasp-nest beetles”). Once the building was completely shrouded, blåsyre (hydrogen cyanide) gas was released into the building over the period of several weeks, in a dramatic attempt to preserve the museum’s collection of specimens, which the infestation of beetles might have otherwise ultimately destroyed.
A Proliferating Illegitimacy 
“stridulate | ˈstrɪdjʊleɪt | verb [no object] (of an insect, especially a male cricket or grasshopper) make a shrill sound by rubbing the legs, wings, or other parts of the body together. | (as adjective stridulating)”
Here since the 19th century, the museum’s whale skeletons are so permanent a part of the museum collection that they appear almost to have become a part of the fabric of the museum itself, but they are not inert objects; they remain organic things. A source of food and shelter, the skeletons, are ripe for colonisation by other bodies, which have found their way illicitly into the museum.
The infestations which continually infiltrate the museum’s collections, seem bent on re-establishing, within the body of the archive, itself, those complex eco-systems, whose component parts Natural History’s taxonomic ordering works so diligently to separate and isolate.
“Skin” beetles (or Dermestidae), adapted to live “in the wild”, on dried animal carcasses, continue to do so within the archive; devouring the organic material they encounter. If left unchecked, potentially reducing the museum’s specimens to piles of dust. Such species as the Museum Beetle have, as its name suggests, long been common and destructive institutional pests, living and thriving on the bodies of taxidermied and other specimens, to the extent that 19th century conservators resorted to coating the skins of such specimens with arsenic to prevent such infestations.
In consuming matter, these infestations also consume data: whether this is the DNA contained in an animal specimen itself or the words borne by a paper-label that describe an individual specimen’s identity and history.
By erasing a specimen’s provenance in this way, an infestation that does so, leaves that specimen unmoored from the time and place of its collection and sets it adrift in the archive; transforming the archive’s order into a kind of entropy and transforming the individual specimen into a mere body, stripped of its place in order of things that Natural History has created.
Reviled as pests for attacking its collections, the Dermestid beetles are nonetheless, also systematically collected by the museum, as specimens, and indeed, paradoxically, so efficient are certain species of these “skin” beetlesat consuming the decaying matter of other dead animals, that natural history museums routinely use them to strip-clean the carcasses that they wish to display as skeletons.
Small as the beetles are – only a few millimetres in length – and ordinarily invisible to the casual observer, a specimen like the skull of the museum’s Blue Whale, infested with Dermestid beetles, may be identified as such by the “frass” or mess, which the beetles leave behind. However, the beetles, present in large numbers, also create a sonic signature. Their unseen presence is not only betrayed by the noise of the beetles’ eating, but also by the eerie sound created by their stridulation. 
Inhabiting gaps and disclosing presences.
An artistic research fellowship, 2016 – 2020
From eerie photographs of empty chairs, and videos of coats hanging-up in deserted rooms, to gallery installations consisting of hospital breathing-machines, which stop and start unexpectedly as the visitor approaches them, Andy Lock’s work as an artist and artistic researcher makes it clear that he has been preoccupied for a long time with identifying, creating and inhabiting gaps and intervals of different kinds; in a wide variety of different settings, but always with the ambition of bringing those who participate in his works into contact with whatever presences or phenomena may lurking, overlooked, repressed, disavowed or denied within the gaps and intervals with which he works.
Andy Lock’s artistic research is preoccupied with practices aimed at identifying and creating sites which are characterised by different kinds of gaps and lacunae; with inhabiting those gaps and with disclosing that which is repressed or disavowed therein. The sites with which Andy has worked have gradually expanded over the past three years, to embrace refugee hostels, musical rehearsals, clinical high-dependency units, anechoic chambers, public squares, literary texts and personal relationships. Each of these investigations has informed his ongoing engagement with Bergen’s natural history museum.
Andy’s work at the museum makes use of found evidence - material, phenomenal and anecdotal - gleaned from his research, to disclose both forgotten histories and contemporary manifestations of the museum’s relationships with those bodies in its midst, whose presence has been systematically repressed by the institution.
Each of the installations that comprise The Wrong Bodies begins with a particular instance of the museum’s past or present relationship to those bodies, about whom it is ordinarily silent.
 excerpt from an email, from the Bergen Natural History Museum, denying
permission to bring a Sitka Spruce sapling into the building.
 (UiB alumnus recalling events at the natural history museum in 1979)
 Michel de Certeau on that which resists panoptic scrutiny (1988 : 96)
 The natural history museum in London keep a colony of dermestid beetles and were able to make a number of recordings for me.