Artist repairs spiderwebs, spiders say no thanks

Artist Nina Katchadourian tried repairing spider webs with thread, but her efforts were rebuffed: "My repairs were always rejected by the spider and discarded, usually during the course of the night, even in webs which looked abandoned."

The Mended Spiderweb series came about during a six-week period in June and July in 1998 which I spent on Pörtö. In the forest and around the house where I was living, I searched for broken spiderwebs which I repaired using red sewing thread. All of the patches were made by inserting segments one at a time directly into the web. Sometimes the thread was starched, which made it stiffer and easier to work with. The short threads were held in place by the stickiness of the spider web itself; longer threads were reinforced by dipping the tips into white glue. I fixed the holes in the web until it was fully repaired, or until it could no longer bear the weight of the thread. In the process, I often caused further damage when the tweezers got tangled in the web or when my hands brushed up against it by accident.
Link (via Kottke)


  1. Dear God that is time.

    But it sounds fun. If I’m ever disabled and can only move my hands. Or if I haven’t got homework or Boing Boing.

  2. Well, this would generally be bad for the spider. Insects are more prone to avoid bright red thread than clear spider web.

  3. From the spider’s point of view, the red thread is useless because it’s not sticky enough to trap insects, and counterproductive because it’s so easy to see.

  4. what if she ground up some old web and spiders and mixed their nice,smelly juice with the thread?

  5. How would you feel if you woke up one day and your broken couch was suddenly “magically” repaired?

    I’d be so freaked out I’d move as well!

  6. Spiders detect the direction of incoming flies by resonance of the according string. This makes them so incredible fast, because every leg sits on one *main* string. Strength of resonance tells them distance and weight. So this *repair* is very funny and beautiful, i really like it, but it reflects human relation to nature very precise: we beleive to *repair* something, but in reality destroy it even more. And in a spectacular, entertaining and beautiful way.

  7. The danger here is that spiders will follow the cat model with respect to kindnesses shown them.

    First, they snub it. Then they accept it. Then all of a sudden you’ve got spiders jumping on your face in the middle of the night because it’s YOUR job to fix the web, like RIGHT NOW.

  8. LOL at Jack #8. Except it would perhaps be more like a bored, artsy-fartsy shark fixing our fishing nets with a bunch of spare teeth where the netting used to be, making it so heavy that it sank our bobbers. Pesky hippie shark! I’m hungry!

  9. REJECTED by the spider?

    What an ungrateful piece of s*%#.

    She’s not fixing your stupid web with some exotic designer silk.
    You get cotton thread like the rest of us.

  10. As conceptual art goes, it’s a fun project.

    But as far as the spiders go, can you blame them for discarding the so-called repairs? The workmanship is dreadful and the material is all wrong. Human thread? Thread! Spider silk is gorgeous stuff and some is sticky, some is envenomed. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of nozzles that produce the silk. Each species has a different recipe. There’s no human thread that is going to cut it, even if it is our crudely-processed silkworm-spun thread. Nope. And the glue? Besides, foreign objects are always removed during spider rollover.

    And as for having time on her hands, better this than mySpace.

  11. This is kind of cute- but it’s hardly surprising that the spiders rejected the ‘repairs’- lots of orb web spinners will completely rebuild their web every morning. I understand they often eat the old web.

    #10: I do occasionally wake up to find a Pholcus phalangioides descending on a string towards my face. I had no idea it was requesting web assistance… (We do have an understanding with our P. phalangioides, as they do a good job of eating other spider species).

  12. What usless webs we weave, when we practice to deceive a spider.

    The web material used by this artist is not what the spider requires.

  13. Most spiders tear down their webs & rebuild them every night or at least every few nights. It’s nothing personal.

  14. Thread in place of spiderweb…

    Based on even what little I know about spiders that seems an effrontery, but as art it looks really cool!
    Photos of that alone are great and make it well worth the effort, but I’m curious to see what a time-lapse video of the repair being rejected would look like too!

    To the spider it must seem like the equivalent of replacing “good” string with Lincoln Logs or Lego.

    Not that the artist is inexpert, just inexpert compared to a spider at this particular task. ;)

  15. Like fixing babies by soaking them in water until they swell up to the size of adults.

    (rolls eyes)

  16. Silva @ #21: A heavy metal Porto was my first thought, but no: turns out that Pörtö is an island east of Helsinki. “Ö” is Swedish for island, but I have no idea what “pört” is supposed to be. A fortified wine for metalheads?

  17. It’s only a matter of time before these spiders, driven by hunger, will seek blood to atone for the destruction…

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