January 24, 2018
Friday, May 19, 2017

Interconnectivity and the world through a spider’s web

Tomás Saraceno oversees the creation of his new show at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires.
Tomás Saraceno oversees the creation of his new show at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires.
Tomás Saraceno oversees the creation of his new show at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires.
By Silvia Rottenberg
For The Herald

Tomás Saraceno’s début show in his homeland, a breathtaking new installation at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, poses questions about the cosmos

The Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires is currently showing a remarkable installation by an Argentine artist. How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider Web is a breathtaking piece of work by Tomás Saraceno, who resides in Berlin. Though he has shown works all over the world, this is his first in his home country.

In the upper space of the museum, which had been closed to the public for six months, the artist, his team, the museum’s team and specialists from the National Museum of Natural Science Bernardino Rivadavia created an environment suitable for 7,000 spiders to weave webs. The result Quasi-social musical instrument IC 342 built by: 7,000 Parawixia bistriata - six months is a breathtaking spatial universe in which the silver linings of the webs are like galaxies of interconnected planes, through which you are allowed to walk through, as if from a different planet.

The space on the second lower level, The Cosmic Dust Spider Web Orchestra, shows how the visitor has an effect on the actual process of weaving a web. Upon entering the room, your presence makes an impact on the sound. This relative sound comes out of boxes, which are placed in front of a projector, creating particles of dust. The projector shines onto an open structure in which a spider is at work, using the quantity of dust-particles produced by its environment. We can all see this (harmless) spider at work, highlighted by the projection on the screen behind her. Visitors become fascinated by this creature’s ability to create something so refined, out of what appears to be nothing.

But there is no such thing as nothingness, because all is connected in this cosmos, explains Tomás Saraceno in a telephone interview, in which we talk about his first show here in Argentina, its audience and the planet at large.

Next year we may see some of the results of new works in either the Kirchner Cultural Centre or Ruth Benzacar, because the airs of Argentina have brought Saraceno back home.

What would you like us — the visitor — to leave with once we have seen the show?

I don’t think in terms of the audience, but more in the idea of being together in a place — call it the world, the planet, the shared space of the species where we are all together to be. If you consider it like that, there is almost no distinction of who the visitor is. When you enter the space (of The Cosmic Dust Spider Web Orchestra) you change the breeze of the space, which changes the sound for the other visitor, which is the spider.

You consider the spider to also be a visitor?

Well it is all entangled and correlated. There is an interdependence. Upon entering the particles in the room change, which alters the vibrations, influencing the way the spider makes his web. We co-exist. It’s interesting because it is culturally determined that spiders are not supposed to be in a house, they are often brushed away with a broom, but also when we do so, we change the amount of dust in a room, which again has an influence on the next webs made. We co-exist in this space that is our planet and influence one another.

When did your fascination with spiders start?

It’s not so much about the spider. It’s about the web. You don’t see spiders in the room, do you? You see the webs. (referring to Quasi-social musical instrument IC 342 built by: 7,000 Parawixia bistriata - six months) What fascinates me is the intricate structure of the webs, their lines, the interconnectedness, while they are all different. Yes, there were spiders there, 7,000 of them, forming the webs, making the biggest installation we have made in all the years that we are working on this theme.

What will you do with the webs once the exhibition is over?

Well, we have a collection and will try to keep the webs, by sliding them on to papers and, like pressing flowers, maintain memories of this

journey, by preserving them two


A lovely nostalgic idea...

(Laughs) Yes!

Is that your Argentinean character shining through?


It is the first big exhibition for you in Argentina. It took quite a while, didn’t it?

Yes, but it was the right time. With Victoria (Noorthoorn) in the museum and the whole team. I don’t think I could have made such a crazy exhibition anywhere in the world. It started with a dream, and then you need the museum’s support — they have to shut down part of the museum for six months! This implies a lot of trust in me and faith in the project. Sometimes it takes time, but it’s OK.

There were also concerns, vis-à-vis the audience. I was told the public might not respond well and would break the webs. That I needed to be aware that the Museum of Modern Art is a public and not a private space, but nothing gets broken. People are responding and behaving amazingly.

You explain the installation in a very philosophical way, as a symbol of our coexistence in the world, but it’s also breathtakingly


Oh, thank you for the compliment!

Do you take the aesthetic into consideration or is it mainly about the concept?

It goes hand in hand. I am happy people consider it beautiful and that it moves them. Of course, I think about how to present the transparency of the webs. We have learned a lot during the last years, and the darkness — it has to be in a black room, where the walls are not illuminated — as well as the lighting are essential in setting it up.

But as it’s a process of co-production, with the space and the spiders always different, every exhibition produces and teaches us something new. This time we really had to consider the circulation of air in the space with the air-conditioning and all.

The context of the space, the people, the lighting, the creation of the dust leading to the webs, is about our inter-relationship on this earth. Which leads to this three-dimensional painting made because of dust.

And your role in this process is of regulator, regulating this context?

Exactly. I work with the air, and the regulation of the air. The air is like my paint and brushes...

And then you have the spiders make the web. Would you consider yourself to be the god-like figure of the universe that is created?

Oh no, please realise that spiders have lived many more years on this planet than us, humans. And they create something so delicate and beautiful. They made their webs with air, with the dust and it’s a beautiful example of how they respond to the surrounding; an example of co-existence and co-creation.

Your study of spider webs has led you to the scientific world.

Well, you know, I teach as well, and without realising it, our institute started to represent (a source of) knowledge of spider webs. We research and investigated how to preserve them and found a way to digitally reconstruct a web three-dimensionally. We realised that art can contribute science as well as the other way around. In this complexity of relationships, we are all dependent on one another.

And what is your next study about?

Now we focus on the prey.


When and where

How to Entangle the Universe in a Spider Web can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art Buenos Aires, on Avenida San Juan 350, from Tuesday-Friday from 11-19hs. Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 11-20hs. Entrance is 20 pesos. On Tuesdays, free. The exhibition runs till August 27.

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