The webbiness of entanglement

What are those black dots?

Wandering along the boardwalk towards the thrombolites.

Cloudy and warm and too early for the sea breeze. Bare headed but carrying my hat, spider silk brushing ears, sticking to hair and faces of the unwary. Fear palpable in groups of visitors – shrieks and near hysteria and agitated jerks from unwary adult and child alike.

Spiders amidst fine sticky webs marked by tufts of silk, moving higher, agitated by the disturbance to their network of webs.

Dancing constellations of jewelled spiders enticing entangled leaves to join with the feathering breeze.
We joined this female at a picnic table as she repaired her web – damaged before we arrived.

Austracantha minax, the Christmas spider is a harmless little orb weaver, still common here and they remind Annette of her childhood (the first one seen in the days before Christmas portending good luck) but is seldom seen now and certainly not in these numbers. There are some at Lake Preston (below) and at Lake Walyungup where they weave their webs between the reeds and the shrubby paperbarks.

Facultatively gregarious (social) Christmas spiders festooning reeds and paperbarks. They are sharing webs with a golden orb weaving spider and are active day and night (cathemeral) like the midges and mosquitoes rising from the drying mud.

The seemingly infinite webs strewn through the air bring to mind Donna Haraway’s (2016) use of the game of string figuring, or cats cradling, to remind us of the infinite and ever-changing connectedness of the world. Haraway’s string figures provoke us to consider how and what multispecies connections, harmonies or entanglements emerge in this place. But Haraway and these spiders and their webs, also remind us that “[n]othing is connected to everything; everything is connected to something” (Haraway, 2016, p. 31).

“The tentacular ones make attachments and detachments; they [m]ake cuts and knots; they make a difference; they weave paths and consequences but not determinisms; they are both open and knotted in some ways and not others” (Haraway, 2016, p. 31)

Along a similar line, these spidery string figurings also bring to mind theoretical physicist, Karen Barad’s notion of “entanglement”:

“To be entangled is not simply to be intertwined with another, as in the joining of separate entities, but to lack an independent, self-contained existence. Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather, individuals emerge through and as part of their entangled intra-relating.” (Barad, 2007, p. ix)

Like Haraway, Barad reminds us not that everything is connected but that everything is in relationship with something, and that these relations bring with them obligations:

“Entanglements are not a name for the interconnectedness of all being as one, but rather specific material relations of the ongoing differentiating of the world. Entanglements are relations of obligation – being bound to the other – enfolded traces of othering.”(Barad, 2010)

References

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Barad, K. (2010). Quantum entanglements and hauntological relations of inheritance: Dis/continuities, spacetime enfoldings, and justice-to-come. Derrida Today, 3(2), 240–268.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.