A Spider-Obsessed Artist Spins Architecture For Climate Change

October 24 2017 | By Vivienne Chow for Quartz Design
A Spider-Obsessed Artist Is Collaborating With MIT To Spin The Architecture For Climate Change

(Above image: Tomás Saraceno’s “In Orbit,” a solo exhibition at the K21 Ständehaus in Düsseldorf, Germany.)

Inside a dark exhibition hall at the Asia Culture Center, Gwangju, South Korea, a gigantic spider is crawling along the web she has built with her own silk threads inside a cubed frame. The spinning process and the sound of her creation are amplified by a microphone and the image is projected on the wall behind. The eerie installation could well be the perfect prop for Halloween, but according to its creator, Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno, we have a lot to learn from spiders—including, possibly, how to live with climate change.

“These complex spider webs help us understand that we are part of this cosmic web,” the Berlin-based artist told Quartz, speaking about the large-scale work Cosmic Dust Installation featured in Our Interplanetary Bodies, his first solo exhibition in South Korea running until March 25, 2018.


[“We are part of this cosmic web”: Spiderwebs form part of a large-scale installation featured in “Our Interplanetary Bodies,” Tomas Saraceno’s first solo exhibition in South Korea. (Courtesy Studio Tomás Saraceno)]

Born in 1973 and trained as an architect before becoming an artist, Saraceno is known for creating artworks inspired by spiderwebs—and often made by actual spiders, thousands of them. Nearly a decade ago, he set up a spider lab in his three-storey studio in southeast Berlin near the Spree River to study spider architecture. It is a place that nearly a hundred spiders call home, and he looks at their behavior and creations for inspiration for futuristic architectural structures that can help humans live in a climate-changed environment.

Arachnologists have praised his work for “expanding the horizons of scientific research,” with his approach of making photogrammetric scans of spider habitats in order to construct large three-dimensional models of them. Bruno Latour, a French anthropologist who focuses on science and technology, said that for Saraceno to achieve his artistic aims, he had to first “push the frontier of spider science.”


[A large spider is busy spinning her web at Saraceno’s exhibition at the Asia Culture Center in South Korea. (Courtesy Studio Tomás Saraceno)]

Saraceno’s enthusiasm for spiders, and the possibilities they suggest, is backed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was the inaugural visiting artist at MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and has an ongoing residency to collaborate with scientists there. MIT describes his work as drawing on physics and aeronautics, and says his biospheres share attributes of soap bubbles and neural networks as well as spider webs. Besides noting their incredible strength, MIT believes spiderwebs have lessons for less tangible networks, such as the internet, for their ability to continue operating well despite local tears and flaws.

Saraceno says that of the more than 40,000 types of spiders, about two dozen of them are social and without hierarchy, meaning that rather than destroying existing webs, these spiders build new structures on top of existing ones, and live there. The installation on show in South Korea is built by one of them, a species known as Nephila, or commonly known as the Golden Orb Weaver, common in warm regions from Asia to Australia, Africa and Americas.

Read more about it on Quartz Design

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