My searching out of the subtle gossamer of spider webs involves a kind of peering, a gazing and glazing of the eyes onto planes of nothingthereness, onto thin air; it asks a for a scrying of planes of space, a light visual touching and glancing, gleaning for invisible threads. Photons bouncing off the lines creating appearances and disappearances of silvery threads, and for my eyes to see them they have to almost feel, to relax and not focus on objects but to occupy another seeing, almost feeling out the vibratory strings of cobbe webbed space and knitted architecture with scanning gaze.Scrying is normally associated with seeking out other forms of the invisible and clairvoyant (clear vision) by gazing onto surfaces like mirrors, water, crystals, to descry and to catch sight of layering of vision that belie the everyday optic. Scrying a black obsidian mirror now housed in the British Museum, Edward Kelly seered and communicated the angelic conferences of Enochian magical workings to John Dee. When I first learnt of the mirror I was in thrawl to the glamour and esoterica of Dee and Kelly and the obtuse sigils of Enoch’s angelic scripts. I visited the museum and gazed through the display cabinet glassiness and tried to gaze onto the black obsidian, but it was awkwardly placed and of course I saw nothing. The Enochian alphabet reminds me of Cigninota, the practice of swan beak marking by swan breeders from the times when swans were central to any great feast and were almost eaten into extinction. The marks guarded the swan and would become more prominant as the swan aged.My descrying occurs during walking and bicycling but walking is best.. Gait and gaze move into rhythm in streets and parks and gardens. Corners and angles give practical and partial holds for attaching and fixing, from which to span and arch and spin out dynamic lines. But this is the peering and gazing of no horizons, it’s not a linear looking, or a perspective based measuring, it is diffuse and lateral and proprioceptive. The eyes move back, widen, the back brain settles as the the front brain relaxes. It is less grabbing, more receptive and the body borders feel less guarded and defined, interwoven and implicated into the fabric of the exterior world. Webs are felt on skin, barely and yet tellingly there. Like slight hair strands. Pressure felt and pressed onto the tensile drag lines are sensed with the acutest of nervy skin tact. Fingers and eyes, Eva Haywards ‘fingery eyes’ or peering fingering.
Archive for the ‘Biocraft & Edge Practices’ Category
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”This writing is all just fake (copied from other writing) so you should go away and not read any of it.”
Kathy Acker, “Translations of the Diaries of Laure The Schoolgirl”, p. 104, Hannibal Lecter My Father, Semiotext(e).
A series of private ‘actions’ of the copying by hand onto laboratory filter paper a science research paper published in 1994 called ‘The Effects of Fibroblast Growth Factors in Long-Term Primary Culture of Dystrophic (MDX) Mouse Muscle Myoblasts’, written by Janet Smith and Paul N. Schofield.Although it’s not strictly a transcription,it is meant to play on the trans or crossing from one mode of knowledge to another, or one disciplinary area into another. In my case, as a non scientist engaged in artist practice in a highly sophisticated bioscientific context, my taking a form of that knowledge through a personal, explicitly performative and embodied process perhaps produces and maybe acknowledges some of the knowledges that get omitted from the conventions of the science paper. My digestion of knowledge by the writing. The simultaneous flickerings of readings and writing involved in transcribings.Or at least that’s the theory. The actual writing out of, the practice and process will yield some unknowables.
The use of transcription is also a punning of the biological process of the same name in which an RNA copy is synthesised from DNA, leading to gene expression. Highly relevant when discussing a genetic disease like Muscular Dystrophy. The play of words within genetics that relate to linguistics, speech acts and acts of writing makes me curious. This was initially sparked by Janet’s lab meeting white board drawings, in which she drew a cells interaction and intractions across it’s membrane borders, demonstrating it’s relations with it’s immediate environment and how that plays out within and without. She also demonstrated the transcription processes. Witnessing these action drawing, spatial and temporal, revealed many of the subtleties of her highly nuanced area of expertise.My copying actions are inspired by a few sources; one is Monica Ross’s 2001 performance of the coping of ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936) by Walter Benjamin. See http://www.justfornow.net/Another is the glorious post punk US avant guarde writer Kathy Acker who melded many source texts together in a kind of cut up practice. An early method given to her by her creative writing teacher David Antin was ‘don’t be afraid to copy it out,’ to find it in a book and work with that. ‘See Death (and Life) of the Author, Peter Wollen on Kathy Acker, London review of Books. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v20/n
When telling Jennifer Willet about the proposed action to write out research papers including Janet’s 1994 paper, she reminded me of Benjamin’s One-Way Street, The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen ThesesVIII. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.retrieved on 14th Oct 2009 from here.
But actually my version is less a seeking for inspiration and more a wish to move though the body, my body, ’scientific discourse’ and to find ways to write back into it and around and in it’s margins. Jennifer and I discussed paper, what to write on - and where? My sketch book, a Muji notebook, brown wrapping, paper, acid free print makers paper? Each material surface creates a set of knots to the text and the actions, as doe the where?
* And there is a footnote about getting taxis and suicide and tissue culture.
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This is a small selection from the Webskin series. It is a development form the Finger webs which I did by myself when collecting webs and used my point and shoot camera.
For these Mel Grant and I visited a friend of Mels here in Birmingham, Laura Hunt who has a copious amount of spider webs in her garage.I wanted to see if I could improve on the Finger Webs series with the help of a better camera. I also wanted to try out placing webs between joints like my elbow.
All photographs taken by Melissa Grant.
IN a couple of emails I wrote
I rather like the girly delicacy of them - although I don’t want to make Cocteau Twins album covers - I don’t want to loose any bite!
I do like the suggestion of stocking tops, the hairs on my skin which mimic the hairs on the spiders and all of that stuff about hairy femininities, - you know how glossy and super airbrushed mainstream super femme body is, so I like the up too close and personal of the saggy skin of my body and the saggy skin of the webs on it.
Surfaces layers. it makes me think about an Oz based artist Paul Thomas talking about those covert spaces inbetween body and clothing. I like the idea of them being set against the profound beauty and implicit violence of the egg/embryo and the holding technologies of the cable ties. Like riffling though a private chest of drawers in someones bedroom and finding unexpected transmorgrifying indeterminant objects in the discreet domestic, maybe if Cronenburg met Angela Carter. We did the shoot at Mels’ friend Lauras’ who is a secondary school teacher. She is currently marking essays that touch on the gothic, so we were discussing Dracula and Angela Carter of whom she is a big fan (as am I). So it was rather lovely to have these literary conversations and references of the mutable and destabilised against the performing of those concepts.
I’m also reminded of the web being an extension of the spiders tactile zone, it’s delicate hairs sense the threads movements as they vibrate and move. The hairs on my arms function similarly but are amplified with the extreme delicacy of the webs and the cold that creates goose bumps and erect hair follicles. This working with layering and spanning on my own skin creates an extended meshing of these ideas of super fine touch and a distributed sense of self and selfing, both entirely responsive and entirely indivisible from my environment. Felt textures and textual feelings form a inter and intra mergings.
The punning on felt is another story. Mel, who is a great crafts person and makes alot of felt, has suggested we try and create some felt with spider silk.
I posted these images onto Facebook where there is a very lovely circulation of thoughts, support and resonance between my work and that of UK based artist Liz Atkin, and US based academic, theorist and writer Eva Hayward and I.
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structure made from cable ties and garden spider (araneus diadematus) silk spinnings in a confined space.
fertilised egg shell shattered and spilt the 3 day old embryo.
opened up egg showing a 5 day embryo in the top left hand corner
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These are recordings of small actions of trying to capture spider webs between my fingers to create connections between my skin, it’s topography and the silken structures. I was also thinking about gaps, bridges, spannings, attachments. Alot of nothing and alot of something.
I took the photos of my left hand with my right hand with my trusty point and shoot Canon A480 & I haven’t done anything except crop them. Another person taking the photos with an SLR - and some delicate photoshoping would improve the precision of viewing the filigree threads attachments to the skin terrains.
However I’m pleased with them as small performative enquiries that allow me to move between scale, different focus, orientations and notions of body. These actions very particularly work with touch and the felt as well as sight. There is a way of trying to see spider webs when hunting for them, a slight defocusing of the eyes onto a nearer plane in the search for the giveaway glints and catches of light that betray the almost but not quite invisible presence of fresh gossamer.
Posted in silk, spidersilk, spider, webs, spider webs, textile, walking, skin, Biocraft & Edge Practices, Touch, architecture, Performance, live art, action, Bioart, Biocraft, Non human animal, Bioarchitecture, photography, School of Biosciences residency | No Comments »
I’ve been collecting wild webs from in between rails and bringing them back to the lab in preperation for another cycle of tissue culture.
My methodology is crude to say the least, but it works. I’m using cable ties to make loops that I capture the frames with. I’ve also invited anyone else to collect webs and to send them to me, so if you’d like to contribute, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
On one of the webs I accidentally caught a spider which I was unsuccessful in releasing
The next stage will be to sterilise them and then to decide how best to culture onto them and which cells. Most likely I’ll try to culture each cell line individually onto the silks and then some co-cultures.
Perhaps some in liquid media and some on agar.
We’re also going to make some biopsies from chick embryos and tissue culture with them, possibly onto the silks.
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