Spidergoat & the Insect Electro
- National Wool Museum / 2018 / Photographs and video by Sarah Walker / Senior Curator Luke Keogh
“It was eerie, absorbing, spectacular and inspiring all at the same time. Brilliant exhibition”. Ken Linnett (visitor)
Spidergoat and the Insect Electro was created for the National Wool Museum. Light filled cocoons and gentle electro sounds led you into the installation where you unravelled a strange and thought provoking story about insect silk … told almost entirely with wool.
The quest to obtain or replicate the qualities of spider silk reveal unusual methods of research in science – from across the ages and into the contemporary transgenic era. What is revealed is hard to believe, but it is a true story!
After many years spent marvelling at the artistry of spiders as weavers, this installation has given me the opportunity to delve into the qualities of spidersilk. As the strongest known natural fibre on the planet and many times stronger than steel, its elasticity and strength has been coveted by human industry and the sciences for centuries. It is with some kind of satisfaction that it remains somewhat elusive, like natures last secret. Up to this point human interference in natural selection has been as an editor, not a creator but the story revealed a new branch of the tree of life. That of the synthetic kingdom – the human made lifeforms on the cusp of introduction that are falling under the gaze of industrialised biology. As Senior Curator Luke Keogh pointed out, we are entering ‘brave new worlds’.
The exhibition launch was super fun, the Museum turned off all its lights for the night, as part of Geelong After Dark and we had the music pumping. Pierre Proske brought his Sensory Empire skills to this installation with light and sound and was DJ on the night.
Some artwork from the installation is now part of the National Wool Museum Collection.
Here is a link to a video that illustrates the sound and light https://vimeo.com/278091360 / Video by Kathy Holowko
The video below shows the installation at Geelong Wool Museum / Video by Sarah Walker
- 2018 / Melbourne Knowledge Week / Tech Lab Collaboration / ArtPlay
Shapeshifters was a collaboration with audio visual artist Georgie Pinn Electric Puppet, Daniel Calvo Mosster Studio, and dancer Fiona Cameron. Using technology we explored ideas around myths and hybrid creatures to create an immersive experience. I worked on body altering costumes made from rescued industrial materials and second hand clothing to evoke animal embodiment. Children were invited to move and dance through the techno-natural environment of interactive floor projections and sprite-emanating silhouettes in what I thought became a contemporary pagan ritual that celebrated connections to nature and animal kin.
Piece of Mind
I have been thinking a lot about plastic, and how this human-made material is now a part of contemporary ecological cycles, it is in our waterways and has entered the food chain. Soft plastics are generally used once and thrown into landfill. I want to explore the possibilities of revaluing waste plastic by reconstituting it into sculptural form, turning this materials negatives (such as its durability and longevity) into positives. By partnering with leaders in the recycling industry I explored methods of transforming used plastics into sculptural form.
We have brought forth multitudes of new materials like plastic, that ecological systems must now deal with, on land, earth and sea. If we think in evolutionary timelines, it is happening at a rapid pace. If we acknowledge that we live in the age of Anthropocene, where human interventions are effecting earths systems, we must also recognise that as the most intelligent animal, the human is placed as custodian of the pivotal partnerships within ecosystems that all living communities occupy. Our waste is a part of the earths system, the cycle of matter and energy that we depend upon.
I was challenged by what the kooky philosopher Slavoj Žižek said, while standing in a pile of trash at a rubbish dump, he said … “a true ecologist must love all this stuff”. I have forced myself to look. It was while living in the Netherlands completing a Masters, studying ‘place’ under Lara Almergui that I followed the local trash trail, visiting waste plants in industrial sites. The experience left me wanting to reconsider the practice of placing long lasting plastics into landfill or burning single use items.
I have long been concerned with the material required to make outdoor sculpture, and struggled with the dilemma of making strong, durable, long lasting sculptural works on a large scale, while being sensitive to ecological cycles. Re-using existing materials, such as the mountains of plastic waste currently going into landfill in alarming quantities, seems like a no brainer!
NewTecPoly have an Australian first extruder that has the ability to recycle co-mingled soft plastics. I have been welcomed into the initial experimental phase of this material research. There are many unknowns and challenges in creating sculptural work with this reconstituted waste plastic, and much experimentation required.
The brain is the central control device that makes us who we are, and it is the size of a human brain that differentiates us from other animals. All animal brains assess their environmental conditions and adjust their behaviours to ensure survival. The human brain is capable of the unique ability of imagination – to imagine something that does not exist, and the cognitive ability to make it happen. This sculptural brain represents a shift in thinking about materiality and ecology.
The Nature of Material
During my research into the use of recycled soft plastics as sculptural material, a series of test moulds were made. These small brains have a variety of interesting flaws, these pieces have been placed together in an installation connected by a network of neurons.
Synthesis – episode 1
I have blurred reality and storytelling… I have used the body of the Ranger as my site of imaginative intervention within the real world of institutionalised nature conservation while referencing deities and pagan costumed rituals from European history. Today our faith lies in ourselves, with appointed representatives as guardians, backed by science.
Wild animals exist within our urban spaces, often unseen and unnoticed. They have their own borderlands and migrate within topographical maps made of animal habitats.
On a cold, snowy day in March 1985 an artificial bat “cave” was inaugurated by the town-mayor. A photograph records a group of school children dressed like bats at the official opening. The photograph was taken by Dr. Aldo M. Voute of the State University of Utrecht, a bat researcher that instigated artificial hibernation sites. Many monuments of the military, such as forts and bunkers, are now protected micro bat roosts having evolved into nature reserves. Bats are now dependent on these synthesised urban habitats.
The micro bat fulfills its role in ecological systems by eating its own body weight in insects. Their population in Europe is declining but they have received legal protection. Since then, bat researchers have been carefully constructing and recording the use of different artificial bat housing, to identify successful bat box designs and roost sites.
The nocturnal wanderings of these animals have created misplaced fears throughout cultural history.Their ability to see in the dark, at the time when we are most vulnerable, has placed these creatures of the night, into the category of horror in myth and story telling. It is scientifically acknowledged that humans share the ability to perceive objects in darkness through the same method as the bat. The blind, using echolocation, can experience images using sound waves that bounce off surfaces to convey spatial information, effectively seeing with their ears. It is a learned skill. A developed perception of the world. Philosopher Thomas Nagel posed the question “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”. He concluded that where consciousness occurs in animal life that the experience is fully comparable in richness of detail to our own, but in the example presents sensory apparatus so different from ours that the problem is impossible. It is a proposition not expressible in a human language. We can hardly imagine the subjective character of their experience. But perhaps we can imagine … for a moment, seeing with our ears. This is the background to my work ‘Frequencies’ where I explored nonhuman perceptions in the darkened space of Fort Gagel, in Utrecht. Built in the early 1800’s as a military post, the underground cavern held perfect darkness to install a work that visualised how a micro bat might hear an architectural space and formulate a spatial image of its environment. The sound waves are visualisations of how a bat sees with its ears.