Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, © 2014

Fiona Gannon: Update on the spider-human jam sessions

I have done some more reading up on this exhibition, and there is a dedicated website here should anybody be interested in finding out more. Apparently spiders serenade each other as a mating ritual using the strings of their webs as instruments, or at least that is how it has been interpreted, and so the musical idea stems from that. The vibrations sent through their structures can signal prey, a love interest, or a warning from other spiders of a potential threat. The tensile structures act as a medium for communication for spiders, and so Saraceno is attempting to

tap into that network via resonances and vibrations.

Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, © 2015

My concern about the spiders’ voices has diminished slightly with this understanding of resonance being a key player in spider communication.  Tests are being carried out on the webs to measure their vibration, and the team is monitoring the communication between the spiders using piezo-electric transducers and lasers. Saraceno and his team are like the NSA for spiders, except they are listening in on an unknown and unknowable language.

Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, © 2015

“A touch of anthropomorphism, then, can catalyze a sensibility that finds a world filled not with ontologically distinct categories of beings (subjects and objects) but with variously composed materialities that form confederations.” This quote, taken from Vibrant Matter, and included on the Arachnid Orchestra website under “Research,” makes a case for the usefulness of anthropomorphising non-humans. Jane Bennett sees this as a potential catalyst for a sensitivity that can look beyond categorisations such as ‘spider’ and ‘human.’ The common space, or common materiality, in this case would be the string and vibration, and this can be looked at as a means of forming a ‘confederacy’ around this shared thing. One thing that strikes me about Bennet’s quote here, is that she is refering to “a world” and not worlds. Could the world here be the world of webs, vibrations and resonances? Is material sensitivity a possibility for a common ground between human and non-human actors?


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