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.
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.
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.