Tomas Saraceno’s exhibition “On Air” at the Palais de Tokyo (2018) in Paris featured collaborative work on spiders alongside his other work including the Aerocene. From the work on speculative design of fossil free future transport to animal architectures of spiders, Saraceno’s exhibition pitched especially through the arthropods an implicit way of asking what other worlds of sensoria and experience exist. On Air proposed to investigate airborne ecologies of life, entangled webs of relations, and modes of living as cohabitation.
In the wake of the exhibition, we can continue similar questions: What other sorts of architectures, sensations, perceptual worlds and social patterns emerge in the worlds of arachnoids curated and exhibited as part of contemporary art? One would be tempted to see Saraceno’s work as the contemporary version of Jacob von Uexkull – hence also my use of the word “counterpoint” – concerning the perceptual realities of non-human animals. But more than such a casual observation, I want to develop Saraceno’s speculative, even at times utopian thoughts about cohabitation and animal assemblages in the context of its contemporary situation: in other words, besides celebrating the animal worlds of spider (and insect) perception as useful counterpoints of reflection to human modes of technological worlds we should also be prepared to ask how do these collaborative projects set in the context of contemporary situation of large scale biodiversity loss, potential 6th extinction, and the wider themes of climate change and the Anthropocene, as some opt to coin the situation. It’s in this context of questions that I will in this talk develop some themes familiar from my earlier work in Insect Media, but in relation to Saraceno and current contexts of ecology and technological culture.