Remembering Butterflies


Remembering Butterflies is an installation that presents the history of Margot Waltz, the Butterfly Lady. Waltz’s story is told from the perspective of the artist, Ida Rödén, now serving the role of reporter. To understand her subject Rödén “lived” for two weeks with three housemates and it was during this stay that she came in contact with Waltz. As a local butterfly enthusiast, Margot Waltz was one of a few that came on regular visits to the old schoolhouse.

The centerpiece of the installation, a bush filled with Monarch butterflies, is said to be a replica of the bush under which Margot Waltz is now laid to rest. It was by this bush that the newly deceased had once experienced the overwhelming power of the Monarch butterfly migration.

Three articles become an important part of the installation as they help to craft a portrait of Margot Waltz, the three housemates, as well as the reporter. In the introduction lines for an article for The New Yorker, Ida Rödén writes, “I did not know what it was that I was hoping to gain from my visits. But the trip that started a month earlier had been planned for a little over a year. I was at a time in life when nothing seemed to make sense. At the brink of adulthood I figured I was supposed to know where I would live, what I would do, and whether I was supposed to have children or not. And I thought that it was in the homes of strangers that I would find everything I might need to learn and understand.”



Perhaps is the article for Cabinet the most informative when it comes to form an understanding of the complexity of the installation. It is a review of the installation supposedly written by one Kafka Tamura, a name that is also shared with the protagonist in Haruki Murakami’s bestseller novel Kafka on the Shore. Tamura writes, “At 7:15 am on April 1, 2012, Margot Waltz was officially declared dead. As an artist and writer with a special interest for the well-known nature-loving lady, Ida Rödén decided to use the memory of Margot Waltz as a focal point in her latest installation piece, ‘Remembering Butterflies.’ (…) The tone in which these introductory lines are written might correspond to what Ida Rödén would have liked this article to be written in. But as my interest in this piece is of a rather particular kind, I will approach it from a quite different angle.”


Tamura then goes on by writing that Margot Waltz in fact was never born, nor died. Instead she was invented on November 28, 2011, in the small hamlet of Wassaic, New York. He then writes that the three tenants are invented as well. He argues that he can see features taken from the artists in each one of the three tenants presented in the installation. Her body can be seen in the image of the boyish girl with black curly hair; her hair and mouth in the second girl; and finally her eyes as well as nose in the character of the young man. “Through my analysis, I have come to conclude that Margot Waltz is not the only one that emerges from the artist’s imagination. The three tenants do as well. My own suspicion would be that the tenants were created as composites of the three actual tenants on Old Route 22—one of which would be Ida Rödén herself.” Oscillating between being deceptive and informative, the whole installation is asking some fundamental questions regarding authorship and history writing.

Klick on links to download full pdf’s of the articles from Cabinet, National Geographic, or National Geographic.

  • May 29th, 2012