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Spidery influences

Updated: Nov 6, 2021



Untitled (Black Spider) is a recent film and sound installation (October 2021).


A diptych with no beginning and no end, and located in a time and space that is parallel to our own. The work explores the intangible interiority of animality and aims at nothing other than transformations and redistributions.


For Elizabeth Grosz (Grosz, 2011, p 34), “duration is the field in which difference lives and plays itself out – the domain of becoming”. Being in a duration is a process that becomes something other than it was – a span of time in which something shifts from one thing to another. According to Grosz, duration is that which transforms through a process of undoing, as well as making, and it involves the unravelling and unpicking of the past and present, allowing virtualities to emerge from within. This creates new ways of being, and opens up new future beginnings. For Grosz, ‘this unbecoming is the very motor of becoming’ (Grosz, 2011, p 43).


For Deleuze, it is not objects nor subjects that become but rather the virtualities concealed within them. For me, it is important to understand Deleuze’s term ‘virtualities’, in order to grasp ‘becoming-animal’. Deleuze identifies the ‘virtual’ as being composed of continuous ‘multiplicities’ – ‘multiplicities’ that are connected to each other, and whose rates of transformation and differential relations are also connected, and can be understood as an aspect of reality that is both ideal and real. I interpret this to mean, the ‘virtual’ lacks identity, and is itself in a process of becoming or actualising. The ‘virtual’ is the genesis of real experience that must be actualised, or made a reality of.


Untitled (Black Spider) explores becoming through the notion of ‘duration’ – through a duration that is approached from a nonhuman perspective. Animals’ perception of time and duration is thought to be very different from that of humans. This presents me with a rich terrain within which to probe, experiment and test out other modes of being, or otherness; of accessing alternative perspectives and worlds beyond humanness. Through positioning myself ‘in the flesh’ with spiders, as Donna Haraway (2003) puts it, my aim is to gain some insight into an alternative duration through experiencing a multiplicity of speeds, intensities, trajectories and sensations to open up new perspectives and new ways of thinking about nonhuman animals.



Accompanying film Originally, I used the camera to move through undergrowth to evoke a sense of us being a small creature scurrying around. I felt this didn't work so well. It appeared too literal, too obvious. It needed to be more abstract and ambiguous.



Some months later, when preparing for an exhibition, ‘Discursivities’, I returned to this. I wanted the viewer, to be positioned within the work, as if we’re experiencing the rhythms and movements of the Black Spider performance; as if we are spider. This led me to focus on the small green box that can be seen in the film. This is the space of the spiders – the spider performance – where they enter and exit the work. This placement would be an ideal position for the viewer – to lurk in the box; lurk as spiders lurk.


The camera appropriates the spider in the box and within the performance. We are all in the box being shunted about, mirroring the movements of the box. It was important for the film to remain simple and abstract.


By chance, the same week, I filmed a spider in its web and decided to superimpose this within the box too. The spider’s repetitious cleaning motions fitted well with the repetitious and domestic nature of the work – with the spider remaining undeterred and focused as the web is blown about in the wind, and she continues with her cleaning ritual.


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