Nothing brings out a designer’s humour quite like the fine art of fly swatting

Kill flies with Al Gore

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Published in Nature by

They’re everywhere. Buzzing around, itching your legs, circling your head, returning once you think they’re gone. In the worst cases they spread sickness and spoil food. Flies. And it’s fascinating to see what has been designed for them everywhere. After all, a dislike of flies is universal and exists in all cultures and parts of the world.

Fly swatters in all shapes and sizes make up the collection of Iza van Riemsdijk and are on show until 20 September at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam. In a video Van Riemsdijk explains (in Dutch) how she started with a pink butterfly-shaped swatter, complete with bow tie and tweezers to remove the dead insect. That marked the start of a life-long fascination for fly swats for this internist and nephrologist.

Now she possesses very ordinary and very exceptional swats from all over the globe, some 2526 items in total, collected over a 25-year fly-swatting career. Her collection boasts everything from dirt-cheap items to objects created by renowned designers like Alessi.

Seen together, the whole collection teems with humour, thanks to the range of forms that people have come up with to flatten flies, all the associations they have incorporated into the shape of a swat. And the sheer diversity: from pink butterflies to Al Gore, from ones with a hole in them (the give-the-fly-a-chance swat) to animals’ tails. But fly swatting remains a tough sport, for Van Riemsdijk too. Flies are often just too fast!

Iza van Riemsdijk with her collection

Iza van Riemsdijk with her collection

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