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.

Shame ~ part of the Something Done in a Small Moment series ~ by Anna Aysea

As part of our Something Done in Small Moment series, Anna Aysea writes about a very poignant experience and her response to it.

As I turned left, into the long aisle with the detergent, I walked in on the heated brawl between mother and son. The boy could not have been more than five or six. Standing a few feet away from his mother, his little body was shaking with heaved sobs. Tiny fists clenched, and in between sobs he was yelling “No” to his mother at the top of his voice. She stood half turned away from him, without looking at the boy, she spoke to him in an undertone, without expression. Her words were like soft dripping poison, she was taunting and humiliating him. She told him that everything was his fault, that he should be ashamed of himself, that everyone in the store was now looking at him thinking he was a bad, foolish boy, that I was looking at him, thinking he was a stupid fool.

The mother spoke in a foreign language and was clearly under the impression that I could not understand her words, not realizing I happened to speak that language.

It was a battle of wills. She told him she needed apples and if he wanted to make himself useful, instead of making a fool of himself, he should stop making such a fuss and go and get some apples. Fists clenched, still shaking with sobs, the boy stormed off through the aisles.

Witnessing the drama up close, I had been pretending to be immersed in the various detergent choices. My mind on the tormented child, I made my way to the produce section of the large supermarket.  Still sobbing, the boy had found the fruit on the low display and started putting apples in a plastic bag.

“Hi there sweetheart, can I help you with something?”

Not looking up, continuing to shake with heaved sobs, there came a vigorous “No” shake with the head. I followed him as he walked to the self-service scales with the bag of apples. He tried to put the bag on the scales but the counter was way too high for him.

“Would you like me to help you weigh your apples sweetheart?” Again a vigorous “No” shake.

“You like to do it yourself, don’t you?” A vigorous “Yes” shake. Such determination.

“Shall I maybe lift you a little so you can reach the scales and weigh the apples yourself? Would that be okay?” A curt nod.

I lifted him, apples and all, and hold him high enough so he could reach the scales. Shaking and determined, he put the bag on the scales, found and pushed the image of apples and then the price sticker button. I carefully lowered him again.

“Well done, sweetheart! Yeah, I get you, I also like to do things by myself” A wan smile. The interaction seemed to to be calming him somewhat.

“Can you remember something for me, sweetie?” A nod.

“You are very brave, and a good boy. Never forget that. Always remember that, okay?” A nod.

I watch his tiny back as he walked away, returning to the battlefield. I felt powerless, wondering about the kind of adult he would become after the long war of childhood.

Investigating Sense Perception: Hands Holding the Void

Traditionally, sense perceptions have been explored extensively by artists. Highly developed perceptual sensitivity is the talent and field of expertise of an artist. Their explorations and discoveries hold valuable lessons about the nature of reality. This series is about artworks that resonate Buddhist teaching.

Hands Holding the Void
Hands Holding the Void

Alberto Giacometti, Hands Holding the Void, 1935, bronze cast, MoMA

 

The statue expresses the artist’s recognition of the inherently empty nature of sense perceptions.

 

O Shariputra, — in this pure there is no form, sensation, thought, activity or consciousness; : No eye, ear,  nose, tongue, body,  mind; no form,  no tastes,  sound,  colour, touch or objects;

Hands Holding the Void
Hands Holding the Void

Facing Life and Death

Joop Valstar by Erwin Olaf
Joop Valstar by Erwin Olaf

A dying man asked photographer Erwin Olaf to make a farewell portrait. He died a couple of hours after this final picture was taken, photographed at home as he was already too ill to come to the studio.

What strikes me is the powerful presence and the unflinching peace that is emanating from the face, shining brightly through the frail body that is about to give way. The artist managed to capture both the impermanent and the transcendental.

 

At The Twilight

At the twilight, a moon appeared in the sky;
Then it landed on earth to look at me.
Like a hawk stealing a bird at the time of prey;
That moon stole me and rushed back into the sky.
I looked at myself, I did not see me anymore;
For in that moon, my body turned as fine as soul.
The nine spheres disappeared in that moon;
The ship of my existence drowned in that sea.

Rumi

Divan, 649:1-3,5

Words continued

Continued from the previous post and contemplating further on the power of words, I was also reminded of the line from the bible:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In essence, this is about the power to create.

As I went to buy groceries today and I was looking around, I had to acknowledge that everything I saw, the streets, the pavement, the buildings, the supermarket, the aisles with food, with products, money, the clothes I was wearing, my house, the tap I use to wash my hands, everything, started as a concept, a word in the mind. The world as we know it started as a concept, started as a word; our world is the result of our innate power to create. We can use this power for self serving goals, or use it to create a world that is inclusive and beneficial to all. Now that we are collectively forced to a halt and forced to reassess our unsustainable way of life, an enormous creative energy rises to find alternatives, to consider choices that take into account our interconnectedness.

Through the formidable effort that is being made, through the anxiety, the grief, the uncertainty that is palpable, still this creative force shines more brightly than ever. Alternatives are found, things previously thought as impossible are carried out. Our power to create does not diminish in the face of adversity, on the contrary, it rises to the challenge and shines even more brightly.

Words

Batik study

I am currently experimenting with batik for an assignment to make a batik design for a kimono, consisting of writing / words and using indigo blue.

I had the following contemplations on the nature of words.

Words have great power, both to obscure and to reveal the truth, to divide and to unite. We can use words to create stories, stories about us and them, and believe these stories to be the truth. It takes the reality of a pandemic to eminently bring to the fore the truth of our shared being, of our interconnectedness, the truth of what is essential and what is redundant. Words that express this clarity have the power to unite, to heal.

Inside – Outside: Contemplating the Nature of a Bowl

Inside – Outside | Bowl, flax fiber pulp, turmeric root, acrylic pigment

A bowl is in essence a secluded space. The form creates a seclusion which can hold content. With the form, an Inside and an outside come into being, a certain relation between the two is established.  It is a dynamic relationship, it changes depending on dimensions, perception and point of view.

Inside and outside are relative, changeable, they are not absolute truths. The temporary labels of “inside” and “outside” do not impact or divide the space in any way. The immuration by the form results in a temporary modulation of the space, when the limitation of the form disappears, the labels “inside” and “outside” disappear, leaving space unchanged, undivided, unbound as it ever is.  Objects do not hold space, the space holds objects from time to time.

The project”Inside – Outside” is based on the observation that like form and space, who we are has a changeable, dynamic aspect and a stable, unchanging aspect.

Our dynamic aspect has to do with our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, experiences, our body. They change, they come and go and don’t last. The child that we have been had different thoughts, feelings, perceptions and a body then our adolescent self, then our thirty, forty year old self.

That which does not come and go is the faculty within, with which we know thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences. Like the essence of space remains unchanged by the form of an object in that space, the awareness with which we know the changing scenery of mind and body is not affected by that scenery. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences as mind objects may veil the awareness but leave it undisturbed in its always peaceful state. Mind and body do not hold awareness, awareness holds mind and body from time to time, it is our unchanging, unbound essence.

Joy

Anaytika-digitalpainting-2019052

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

– William Blake