Formed of complex interwoven geometries suspended in air, each sculpture appears as a unique galaxy floating within an expansive, infinite landscape. During the building period of each sculpture, each cube is turned onto its various sides, dislodging gravity and interweaving silvery spider silk from different arachnid species. The works’ titles reveal the technical basis for each sculptural element, like the genus and species of the spider collaborators and the amount of time needed to construct their webs. They allude to their structures: as cosmic dust deposits on the webs, intricate filaments allude to dwarf and spiral galaxies, nebulae and quasars. Spiders spin tiny Universes. From these emerge a space where multitudes observe themselves in the very act of becoming a community: a spatial condition of physical immersion. The idea of suspending the void, of capturing and separating it from the surrounding empty space, infuses the sculptures with a philosophical quality, prompting a reflection on human co-existence among themselves and with other species on Earth.
Hybrid Webs have been exhibited worldwide including: at Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin (2012); at the Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin, and at Museo di Villa Croce, Genoa, Italy (2014); at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; at the Louvre Museum, Paris; at the Chicago Architectural Biennial, Chicago Cultural Center, and at Espace Muraille, Geneva (2015); at MARCO, Museum for Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico; at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USA; at the Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt; at the Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai, and at the Istanbul Design Biennial, Istanbul (2016).
“Life is not just about matter and how it immediately interacts with itself but also how that matter interacts in interconnected systems that include organisms in their separately perceiving worlds – worlds that are necessarily incomplete, even for scientists and philosophers who, like there objects of study, form only a tiny part of the giant perhaps infinite universe they observe”
(Dorian Sagan, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, with a Theory of Meaning, 1934)
“Spiders, we now understand, have given us a model of which the present is a simulacrum, though not just the technocratic, seemingly intangible future-present of life online but also the real-world urgency of environmental relationships and their fragility.”
(David Toop, Filament Drums: the Endless Instrument, in Cosmic Jive: The Spider Sessions, 2014)
“Forget about spider man and his meek two-dimensional webs! Even though spider webs have been around for at least 140 million years, we have never managed to preserve, measure and display their webs in a three dimensional form. Tomás Saraceno has opened our eyes to the intricate geometry of spider webs with his newly invented scanning instrument that digitized for the first time a three-dimensional web. In fact, there is no single museum in the world with a collection of this kind. His spider web sculptures are a breakthrough in both science and art, and thanks to his methods and technique he has enabled much needed comparative studies in mathematics, engineering and arachnology, opening new fields of studies.”
(Peter Jäger, Head of Arachnology, Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt am Main, and co-author of the World Spider Catalog, 2015)
Tomás Saraceno: We are trying to learn about spiders’ behavior and net making and we would like to learn more about the origin of the uni-verse…But maybe you could start by explaining the project first and also this analogy between the cosmic filaments and a spider web.
Volker Springel: … The cosmic web, that’s how we astronomers talk about the big picture, how the universe as a whole presents itself and how galaxies are arranged on large scales. I can show you a flight through the universe. As we think it is. The stuff that is colorful here is actually matter which you can’t really see. On the computer we can paint it and we can illuminate it. What is visible a little bit here is that the backbone of structure of the universe consists of these filament-like structures, which are part of the cosmic web, and along these we find galaxies that are arranged like pearls on a string…We hope to find evidence for unknown elementary particles that we think make up most of the matter in the universe. All of this stuff that is red and yellow here are particles we have not discovered yet on earth.
(Excerpts from a conversation with Volker Springel at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany, on February 17, 2009)
TS: Black matter.
VS: Yes. We call it dark matter. It has no color, it is not shiny but it does have a gravitational action on you. It attracts every matter. The dark matter holds the galaxies together otherwise they would fly apart because the stars move too fast. It is like when you are on a carousel and you (let go) ; you… fly away. The dark matter keeps the stars in orbit through its gravitational attraction. The gravity of the dark matter in fact forms the universe as we know it…
But coming back to the colors again, this is really an artificial image. In reality you would see no colors because the dark matter is truly dark. The red and the blue and so on, this (coloring) actually visualizes temperature – how cold and hot the dark matter is- which is just a measure (of) the velocity with which the elementary particles move. I’ll show you something else: How the dark matter and cosmic web evolves over time. So what you can see here—if you like—is a brief history of the universe in fast motion. This counter shows the elapsed time, Gigayears means billion years. So at this moment we are 60 million years after the Big Bang. This is a pretty long time but within the simulation it is actually really short. At this point you basically see that nothing interesting has formed yet. But as time goes by, structure starts growing out of this primordial cloud of matter. Now you see how the web is slowly emerging. In fact, that is what we call the cosmic web. It’s simultaneously forming everywhere. It is constantly transforming. You see that the web is first very fine, but then these filaments become ever more visible because they attract each other through the action of gravity. As a result they get thicker and thicker by accreting more material. And on the intersections … you get these big blobs of matter that collide and get bigger and bigger. The movie actually shows how we think the Milky Way galaxy forms. Right now we are 20% into the history of the universe and you see that a proto-galaxy has formed. Towards the end of the evolution you don’t see much of a cosmic web anymore because we are here only focusing on one of the blobs at the intersections.
TS: I think you have got a beautiful eye for the selection of the colors! If you have this imaginary box or cube with your parameters to run … could you decide to start this in a sphere in-stead of a cube, would this work out?
VS: Good question. So what’s the matter with the cube? The problem is that the universe is in fact inÿnitely big. There are no edges or walls when you go arbitrarily far in some direction. We think on average it looks the same everywhere, and that we are not at a special place. So if there is no wall anywhere the question is how can you calculate something that is infinitely big? At the least you would need an infinitely big computer. Impossible! So you have to adopt a mathematical trick. You say: Ok, I pretend my universe lives in a box … if you do just this, you would however make a very big mistake because suddenly your universe has surfaces and edges. These walls would be physically inconsistent with the real universe. The rescue is the following trick: you just replicate the box in every direction an infinite number of times. It is like tiling a floor. Look, if you imagine you have a tile with some pattern on it where any line that hits the left or bottom side just continues on the other side. You can then make many identical copies of the tile. If you use them to cover the whole floor, the pattern repeats across the tiles – if you hit a side of a tile you can simply continue along the line on the neigh-boring tile. And if you make the gap between the tiles vanishingly small you can hide that there is a tiling at all. Because then the structure just continues. In fact, while you can see that the pattern repeats, you wouldn’t be able to tell where the original tile was. See what I mean? That is called periodic replication. That is what we mathematically do. We have a box and put the model universe inside. It’s a three-dimensional cube and we replicate each of the 3 spatial dimensions. Mathematically we then have an infinite model without any internal walls, but we only have to do the calculations for the fundamental box, and not for infinite space. But you could not put the universe in a sphere and fill the space with spheres. They can’t touch each other completely. You would have large gaps.