Music of the Spiderweb

Continuing our theme of Spider Web, this week, Anna Aysea discusses spider webs as an art form, and in so doing revisits the common feature of all of our blog pieces, this month, the interconnectedness of all life.

Tomas Saraceno
On Air, Tomas Saraceno

As a maker, I am utterly fascinated by the web of a spider and its construction. The architectural design is mesmerizing.

This time of year, the garden is full of spider webs. Last week I saw one hanging from a base thread which was spanning more than six meters, a whopping distance for such fine yarn to hold. The thread was so fine, it was visible only when the light hit it from a certain angle. An on looking neighbor may have wondered why I was bending in strange angles while going from one side of the garden to the other as I was following the thread, trying to find its beginning and end point.

The silk of a spider is one of the strongest fibers in existence. According to researchers it is five times stronger than s­­teel, if human-size, it would be tough enough to stop a large aircraft. Interestingly, spiders feature in many mythologies. Also, spider divination and asking questions from spiders are still being used today in indigenous cultures which can teach us a lot about communication across species and between species.

Visual artist Tomás Saraceno who has a background in architecture, takes the fascination for spiders and spider webs to the next level. As the initiator of the Arachnophilia Foundation, he cohabitates in his studio with one of the largest collection of spiders consisting of over 7000 eight legged creatures. His large scale installations and sculptures are informed by his extensive study and close observation of how different species of spiders live, work, collaborate and build intricate structures as artworks, cohabitating with one and other and with humans.

tomas saraceno
Webs of Life, Tomás Saraceno

Drawing parallels between spider webs, cosmic webs and the webs of interconnectedness, Saraceno presents the necessity to reevaluate how we perceive and operate in the world and often overlook the sentient beings we coexisted with. His work focuses on interconnected, nonhierarchical collaborations between humans and nonhumans. Tomás Saraceno has a large body of facinating work inspired by spiders and their webs, I like to briefly mention two projects.

The installation “How to hear the universe in a spider web” is a sonification of a spider web. Tiny microphones placed in the web detect vibrations in the silk threads plucked  by the spiders to communicate and make these vibrations audible to the human ear, as the music of the spider web.

The project Webs of Life  in the Serpentine Gallery, London, includes monumental spiders, towering scary monsters who write to us humans movingly in the “An Open Letter for Invertebrate Rights”:

Dear inhabitants of the worlds,

We would like to start by thanking you for your time, by recognizing our rights to inhabit and participate in this exhibition and for not labelling us “urban pests” as many others do. We hope that after this exhibition ends, you would consider allowing our continuing but threatened, unlimited existence.

Many of you are frightened of us in the real world. To overcome this we hope you might interact with a digital version of us.

Your scientific names for us are Bagheera kiplingi* and Maratus speciosus, though we call ourselves differently in our vibrational language. This summer, you will be able to spot our augmented presence around the Serpentine.

Now, after this exhibition ends, you will need to find us in the real world and show a good will of co-existence by not sweeping us away. We could grant you in exchange a certificate of co-existence for a perpetual loan of our avatar friends to be exhibited permanently, under the terms agreed to respect our rights!

We have lived on earth for more than 380 million years, while some of you humans, only 200 thousand years. Can the minority learn to live with the majority of us? We are the 95% of all animals on planet earth asking for the right to weave webs of life, yet we are threatened into extinction by such a small number of individuals.

Do not be afraid. Let us move from arachnophobia to arachnophilia by sensing new threads of connectivity, or else face the eternal silence of extinction.

Sometimes ~ by Chris Yeomans

This week, Dew on the Grass offers you this beautiful and evocative poem, written by Chris Yeomans.

Sometimes
I want to dress
in burgundy and mustard
and cross the world
to see the Dalai Lama.

Sometimes
I want to offer a white silk scarf,
which, in my mind,
is like the scarf that
gentleman used to wear
with evening dress.

Sometimes
I want to hear
the turning of prayer wheels,
the flapping of flags
and to see the stream
of cloud from the summit
of Mount Everest.

Sometimes
I want to go back
to the smoke-filled temples in Hong Kong,
to wipe the incense dust
from my fingers
to blink
in the glow of flickering oil lamps
and to hear the dissonant chants of foreign monks
singing in an alien key.

Sometimes
the everyday ordinary
here at home
is just too much.

Spiders Web-In House & Garden -Mo Henderson

Continuing our theme of Spider Web, this week Mo Henderson shares her childhood experience of communing with a spider. It seems that all our contributors, thus far, on this theme, have had similar relationships with these small, eight-legged friends. How wonderful!

As a child, I was always fascinated by watching little creatures and despite the huge differences in image, size and behaviour, my imagination worked in a way which opened a whole world of mutual relationships for me. I remember one particular spider who lived in the corner of my grandmother’s bathroom. Before school, I used to stand on a wooden support made by my grandfather to clean my teeth under the watchful eye of the spider, I would tell her about my morning and future school day.

I was horrified one day to hear my mother was going to remove the spider webs from around the house and, sure enough, the next morning my friend the spider had gone! How she would miss me! Would she understand why she had to move? I certainly didn’t but was reluctant to mention the loss to my mother. For some reason the secret was just between the spider and me;  relationships like that were in my heart and I needed it not to be lost from there too! Over my childhood years, I had many more friends who were also very different and on reflection, I learned a lot from those silent communications with the natural world.

Last week my brother sent me a photo of a ‘Cross Orb Weaver garden spider’. He had received a delivery of smokeless coal and the spider’s web was covering the space where it was normally stored, “So I’ve had to find a new space for the coal bags” he wrote. I was quietly pleased, knowing the spider was staying where it presently was. I looked closely at the photo and thought the web looked quite tattered and weathered, yet there was this beautiful creature sitting there, watching and waiting with such dignity and vigilance in the centre.

‘If thus restrained, freedom original: Is like a tiger that has tattered ears or like a hobbled horse’

The Most Excellent Mirror Samadi

Spider Web ~ by Karen Richards

Continuing with our theme of Spider Web, this week Karen Richards describes a very personal encounter with a spider

Autumn, the season of the spider web. Of course, spiders are with us all year round but in autumn they are more visible to us. Most will be found outdoors, stringing their webs across pathways, the cornices of outbuildings, and even across shrubs and vegetable patches. Those spotted indoors may have sought refuge from the cold but more likely, having been born somewhere in the house, in the spring and early summer, have emerged fully grown and looking for a mate.

~~~~~~~~~

Early morning, still dark outside, I go to light my gas hob and, looking up, see a web hanging from the ceiling just above the cooker hood and, suspended within it, a small spider. Momentarily, I consider knocking it down with a duster. It is by now hanging directly above my pan of bubbling porridge and I calculate the odds of it falling to a hot, sticky death and me having to ditch my breakfast.

Yet, despite its appearance of fragility, there is something stalwart about this small being and I decide to leave it be, for now. Each time I return to my kitchen to cook, I check on the spider’s progress. It’s still there, holding fast. Each time I consider removing it, a more powerful sense of ‘let it be’ prevents me. I am intrigued by my reluctance to decamp it, which could be done quite quickly and humanely. Over several days, I realise that I have now developed a relationship with the little creature. I look up and greet it before I light the flame and periodically, during my cooking, check to make sure it’s still safe.

One morning, when I reach out to get my breadboard, I see a tiny chrysalis formulation, lying on the worktop. It’s dead, I think but raising my eyes, I see that the previously diminutive black body is still alive but is much bigger, and is now beautifully speckled with gold. I pick up the tiny skin that it shed in the night and hold it to the light. A small amber miracle, which I place on the window-ledge with a gassho.

For several days more, I continue this communion with the arachnid until one morning it is gone and all but a fragment of the web has disappeared with it. I learn later that orb spiders routinely eat their webs when they have finished with them. Spider webs are full of amino acids, apparently.

So, I take a duster to what is left of the web, scoop up the tiny skin from the window ledge and, opening the backdoor wide, release the remnants on the wind, whispering a quiet goodbye and thank you before going back inside.

Small KIndness ~ by Danusha Laméris

We are taking a little detour from our current topic of Spider Web, to bring you some thoughts on kindness. Thank you to SiafuAntony, for reminding us about this piece of writing, by Danusha Lameris, which is both poignant and beautiful. The rock, in the photograph, is from a collection, which I spotted on my walk to a local green area, called Paddock Mound, in Telford, UK. They appeared during the pandemic, to lift our spirits, and are very much in keeping with the theme of kindness.

I’ve been thinking about the way when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by.  Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.

We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.’

Danusha Laméris

Offered to us by SiafuAntony