Stabilimentum, 2015 - 2016
Living spiders, plexi glasses, Silicon, Aluminum, filter. Dimensions Variables
Team: Jiwon Woo and Monica Butler
*Honors: Bio Design Challenge Finalist for University of Pennsylvania ⎟ MoMA 2016
*Permanent Collection at The Tech Museum, San Jose, CA
*Special thanks to Bolt Threads and Dr Jonathan A Coddington at the Smithsonian Institution
Traditionally, the feelings we have reserved to the spider can vary in scale from nuisance to terror; they're always seen as pests. On the other hands, the value of spider web fibers is evident to many other mass production industries and material researchers. For instance, parka manufactured by North Face and material manufacturer Spiber is composed of outer shell made from synthetic spider silk that replicate the high tensile strength found in natural Spider web fibers. Regardless of the method used for generating synthetic silk, they all have one common theme, and that is not using real, living spiders in the process.
Focusing on electrostatic quality of the spider web fiber, the Stabilimentum system bridges a new symbiotic relationship between humans and spiders, by trading spider nourishment and habitat for natural web fibers. The Stabilimentum system is comprised by three artifacts: the personal air purifying mask, the wearable air purifier and the spider web harvesting habitat. Stabilimentum also includes researches on designing environmental conditions and spaces, which encourage the spiders to naturally build massive communal webs, instead of synthetically modify the spider’s DNA to artificially gain the web fibers.
There is a general perception that spiders are aggressive and cannot be farmed in close proximity, but in reality they present minimal aggression and even flexibility on their web boundaries when presented with ideal environmental conditions. And there is evidence of this happening in nature.
There are numerous sightings at separate locations where spiders have worked together to cover vast areas with webbing, in response to the environmental conditions. Although these are a few events that occurred only in the United States, there have been more instances like these in multiple parts of the world.
Most of our field research took place at The Baltimore Back River Wastewater treatment plant, where about 107.2 million spiders actually live at the facility, weaving webs together.
From the Wastewater treatment plant and discussion with Dr Coddington from Smithsonian, and we found out that these ideal conditions for communal web building are reproducible. With abundant prey, indirect lighting, humid microclimate and ideal attachment surface, spiders not only can live together, but also build massive webbing structures as they do in the Baltimore plant.
And in fact, we’ve been keeping spiders at Penn’s greenhouse in our effort to learn from their behaviors and observed how they are directly affected by their environment.
From our academic research and visit to Baltimore, we’ve determined that proportionally scaling down the phenomena occurring at the Back River Wastewater Plant to our Stabilimentum design, there will be about 75 spiders living in a single unit of the Web Harvesting Habitat, and they will be able to spin enough web for more than 30 cartridges in less than 30 days.
The Back River Wastewater Plant in Baltimore
Stabilimentum bridges a new symbiotic relationship between humans and spiders, by trading spider nourishment and habitat for natural web fibers. The Stabilimentum system is comprised by three artifacts: the personal air purifying mask, the wearable air purifier and the spider web harvesting habitat.
Personal Air Purifying Mask
Wearable Air Purifier
Spider Web Harvesting Habitat
Aside from the Bio Design Challenge where we represented the University of Pennsylvania at the MoMA in New York City, our project has also been displayed at two exhibitions: BYO at UPenn, Our Biotech Future(s) at SVA and it is now on display at the Tech Museum of Innovation’s new Biodesign Studio, scheduled to run for the next decade. It also was shown at the Emerge conference of Arizona State University in February 2017.
Silver Argiope and Crablike Spiny Orb Weaver were raised in hand-made containers for the project
In the Media