Dancing with Spiders: On the Origins of Art III-VIII

Maria Fernanda Cardoso

Image: Maria Fernanda Cardoso 2018
Digital imaging in collaboration with Geoff Thompson and Andy Wang

Dancing with Spiders

Colour and sound at the micro scale

The work

Dancing with Spiders: On the Origins of Art III-VIII is a video installation that based on films that Maria Fernanda has made of the extravagant visual and performative displays of Australian jumping spiders of the Maratus species (commonly known as ‘peacock spiders’), each with unique colour patterns, dancing styles, face and leg gestures that are used to charm the females.

Charles Darwin acknowledged the major role played by female choice in sexual selection. Spiders have an aesthetic sense driven by the female’s taste, and her judgment drives the male's displays to incredible levels of refinement and complexity. However, in this work the audience will not be the female spide - it will be humans, immersed in a three-screen outdoor stage.

The spiders also produce sounds and use them to communicate. Inaudible to the human ear, they have been captured through a laser-vibrometer, and been made the sound hyper-realistic, with an added tactile dimension through the use of floor-transmitted vibrations. The human audience feels the sounds through the vibrating floor, in the same way that the spiders feel sound - an exercise in human-animal communication.


Dancing with Spiders: On the Origins of Art III-VIII 2017
Three channel HD video installation, hyperrealistic sound with tactile dimension.
32 min 24 sec

Artist: Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Sound: Andrew Belletty
Edit: Gary Warner
Camera: Peter Nearhos and Ben Cunningham
Science: Rowan McGinley, Tina Peckman and Madeline Girard

Dancing with Spiders has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Department of Communications and the Arts' Festivals Australia program.

Thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts Creative Australia Fellowship


Maria Fernanda Cardoso is an international artist who lives and works in Sydney. She holds a Ph.D. from Sydney University in art and science (2013), an MFA from Yale University in sculpture and Installation, and a BA in Visual Arts from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota. She has exhibited in over 26 countries in institutions such as New York’s MoMA, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the San Francisco Exploratorium, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Fundacion La Caixa in Barcelona, and the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid. Her work is held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and the National Art Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Andrew Belletty is an Indian-born Australian sound artist working across visual, performance and media arts. His multilayered, experimental works attempt to heal bodies and restore human connections with the earth, by creating experiences with technological, multi-sensory and multi-media apparatus, through an art practice that redesigns images and sound as flexible forms that can be manifest across gallery-based interactive installations and moving image-based artworks. Drawing influence from his work as a musician and sound designer within Indigenous Australian and Indian media arts since the mid nineteen-eighties, Andrew works with sound as a material to explore the way acoustic and vibrotactile energies form cultural and ecological connections between bodies within space. This research explores the notion of situated listening as a decolonizing framework, which draws upon traditional knowledges to extend ideas of sound listening beyond audibility, to sub-audible energies and haptic phenomena, suggesting a more complex and grounded notion of sound, perceptionand ecological connection. Andrew’s work challenges the compartmentalization of a dominant euro-centric sensorium where sound has become something that can be easily quantified, recorded, reproduced, stored and disseminated through technological means, and attenuated by cultural imperialism. A founding member of acclaimed Australian band Yothu Yindi, Andrew works internationally as a cinematic sound designer and has been actively engaged in arts practice and research since 2010.