09 20 Oct '24
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Spindle - Oona Libens

Edition 2022 Videodroom
In Spindle, the new show by visual and performance artist Oona Libens, an all-knowing spider and an emerging artificial intelligence meet. They talk about the history of weaving and the future of digital technology.

The link between these two ostensibly opposite technologies serves as the point of departure for Spindle. The dialogue between the spider and the AI yields a web of connections and perspectives. During the industrial revolution, punchcards – cards on which information is represented by arrangements of punched holes – were used to control looms automatically. They would come to be the inspiration and the basis for the earliest programmable computers. In much the same way as punchcards, woven fabric can also be seen as a carrier of zeros and ones: weaving is, in this sense, the first binary technology.

As in her previous work, the Belgian-Swedish Libens uses both antiquated and modern-day projection technology, as well as certain light and shadow effects. In this way, she creates a fleeting, tangible and sometimes precarious universe, fitting perfectly into our VIDEODROOM programme.

Just as in reality, the AI in the show seeks to understand the whole world’s affairs in terms of data and thus predict the future. As the spider – the archetype of a weaver – weaves her web, the AI learns to imitate her, but also to intimidate her. That’s because the spider possesses the last mystery of nature, which AI has not yet mastered: the spinning of spider silk...

In Spindle – whose title refers to the weaving tool but also the Dutch word for ‘spider’, spin – Oona Libens weaves together an intricate universe consisting of threads and objects from the textile industry, as a metaphor for the digital world. On stage is a large loom/primitive computer, which produces both image and sound. For this production, Libens collaborated with musicians Jürgen De Blonde and Vica Pacheco.

Spindle represents a search for a new narrative for digital progress – a narrative that we as users can control and one that reflects a symbiosis with nature. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the slowness and complexity of weaving?

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