Lifeless Worth is a sculptural artwork made entirely of silver. Though it’s not as impressive as it sounds: it is a replica of a dead moth, about 4cm long, lying on its back on a dusty floor. The overall message of the piece is about worth – the clue is in the name.
This little sculpture was created with its setting in mind. It should be in a gallery, but not on a plinth. Rather, it should lie in some insignificant corner with only a label to show that it is Art.
This is the first kind of worth this piece comments on: the worth of Art. If the silver moth is not in a gallery, and does not possess a label, then it is merely a replica of a dead moth made by a silversmith; it is not art made by an artist. Why does the label ‘Art’ give things so much value? That is a question that many have written books to try answer, but this little moth seeks to at least encourage everyday people to ask it.
The main kind of value that this artwork seeks to question is the worth of Life. The life of a moth is so insignificant and worthless that a dead one lying on a gallery floor would quickly be swept up and thrown away. This one however, because it is silver, art, and crafted by hand, is considered to have value. Time, effort, and money was put into making this dead moth. It is worthy to be scrutinised and criticised, pondered over and sold for many times its material value. But a real moth is considered merely a pest, or is not considered at all. Surely a real life is worth more than silver or gold. And yet humanity undervalues living things and pays so much for material objects.
As a craftsperson, I am thankful that people do appreciate and pay for the time and effort that is put into handcrafted objects, and yet I cannot help wondering why it is so easy for us to care about inanimate and pretty things, and ignore or shun the living people and creatures around us. After all, they are made by a far superior Artist.