I create videos, sculptures prints and drawings that explore material and mythical entanglements between humans and animals. This has led me to weave silk from living spiders, immerse myself in a giant green sea anemone and create a staring match with a squirrel.
For my PhD research I am examining the history of human uses of spider silk to reassess the relationship between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ processes of making. It is guided by two questions: (1) How do forms and materials made by nonhuman animals affect human making? and (2) How are the properties of materials differently perceived and used by humans? My aim is to examine making as a process across species.
Motivated and guided by my own artistic practice, the research draws from a range of disciplines to examine five different uses of spider silk: crosshairs and reticules in optical instruments, the history of spider silk weaving, layered spider web fabric in the South Pacific, spider silk egg cases in acoustic instruments, and current attempts to create an artificial spider silk. Through these investigations, I argue that the making of objects cannot be fully understood through either a focus on human intention (pre-conceived idea of an object) or what the properties of the material allows. Rather, in response to recent attempts to move towards a non-anthropocentric approach to materials, the thesis argues that attention should also be given to the action of nonhuman animals in processes of making.
This research has been funded by a three-year AHRC Studentship and a one-year UCL interdisciplinary scholarship in the Department of Anthropology.