In 2014 I made a miniature replica of a WWII concrete pillbox (guard post), encountered along Fleet Lagoon in Dorset, using two different sizes of tin cans, one inside the other, as formwork. Placing a lamp inside the cast form I went into the dark room to capture on photographic paper the light emitted from its loophole (narrow slit for looking or shooting through). The resulting photograms were eerily reminiscent of the view from the original pillbox, across the lagoon to Chesil Beach, and I made a series of works that played around with the idea of the relationship between viewer and view, the pillbox demonstrating their interconnectivity.
Shortly afterwards I made a series of objects, canvas fragments dissected by a single horizontal red thread and secured in plastic 35mm slide mounts. At the time I couldn’t make sense of the work and they eventually got filed away, with the other ‘failed’ studio experiments. This morning, nearly ten years later, these curious slides suddenly came back into view thanks to a book recommended to me by ‘Gas’ Pendergast during a studio visit last week. The book was published just two years after these canvas slides were made and as I turn the page to a photograph of a tiny wood frame used to collect spider silk, I immediately recognise the image of my own making. I remember, in the delicate way the fingers hold the frame, in the little notches on the sides, but mostly in the fragile line that dissects the space between.
I like to think that Eleanor Morgan was deep into researching ‘Gossamer Days’ back in 2014 when I somehow picked up a thread of her new knowledge from the collective unconscious. I learn from Eleanor’s re-telling, that a spider once drew a line of silk across the common focal plane of William Gascoigne’s telescope, which inspired him to invent the micrometer whose cross-hairs, when lined up with the centre of a star, allow for its measurement. My limited understanding of how this works comes from rifle sighting devices at the fairground and in wartime movies. In the text that follows the photograph, Eleanor recounts the threads of spider silk collecting significant during both world wars and still evident at the Vickers’ optical instrument factory in 1960’s York where boys were sent out early in the morning, ‘each spider placed in a separate pillbox to avoid them eating each other’.
(Eleanor Morgan 2016 ‘Gossamer Days: Spiders, Humans and Their Threads’ London, Strange Attractor Press)