Drunken spiders have brilliant ideas about how to walk. They combine writing and walking; they write as they walk or they walk as they write. Some would call it drawing, others dance, and some would consider the movements trivial and inconsequential. However, I suggest that drunken spiders are the best examples of practitioners of non-discipline, or what the academics would call transdisciplinary practitioners. They could also be considered artists, whose practice is addressed by artistic researchers as the art of living. There might be serious critique about the drunken spiders as their method might suggest frequent alcohol consumption as a tool for going places in their practice; obviously, this might conclude with a bad habit. But one should remember that vast, in-depth investigations and days of scientific studies in laboratories have proven that there is no alcohol in ink. Scientists have also proven that there are no other addictive substances in ink as such that might plausibly lead to a bad habit. Yet the question has remained unresolved. What is it that inebriates the spiders? Or in other words: why on earth do they step into the ink jar – is it by accident, or is there some purpose behind it?
The humanist scientists, who believe in the unique intelligence of human beings, insist on the accidental nature of this event. They believe that when the spiders happen to fall into a jar of ink, the fuzz on their bodies absorbs ink, and as a result they become heavier. As their body structure is built to bear only the normal weight of an average spider’s body, their legs receive a shock from the sudden burden when they absorb ink. This is basically why they can’t walk as nimbly and lightly as before. “Spiders have no intelligence”, the scientists insist on stating, and continue: “they would not be able to understand what would happen to them if they stepped into the ink jar. So their drunken-like movements are the result of an accident and a simple fact of not being able to cope with this sudden burden”.
Beside this very logicaland scientific argument, there is another line of reasoning that might help us understand such an event in a better way. Most spiders like ink, and this has been proven by the frequency with which spiders are found in inkwells. One reason for their interest is that they consider ink to be a material that can wear, something they can use to express themselves just by moving around and living their daily lives. Despite scientists’ belief that spiders have no intelligence, they distinguish the ink from similar liquids such as soya sauce, red vinegar and black oil. Their lust for ink arises from the fantasy of wearing it and playing with their liquid dress. This thrill gives them a sense of drunkenness.
The experiments with 250 spiders and two jars of soya sauce and ink showed that 248 of spiders chose ink over soya sauce. The two jars were of the same size and colour. Ironically, the only two spiders that chose the different jar were diagnosed with a very rare lung disorder.Of the 248 who fell into the ink, only one never made its way out – the reasons for this are not yet clear. The other 247 spiders made (creative) works of various forms. In 4 cases, immediately upon stepping out of ink, they avoided walking on the experiment tableand cast their web onto the neighbouring wall and ascended from the table.What they left on the paper could be counted as minimal art, if one wishes to adhere to established art history terms. These 4 works consist of some dots spread over an area of no more than two centimetres. The other 243 spiders made various forms of writingthat are currently under study in various departments of the University, e.g. the Department of Literature, the Department of Dance and Choreography, the Department of Music, the Department of Fine Arts, and the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning.
After all, which of these two approaches would be more helpful for our understanding of the phenomenon of drunken spiders? Maybe looking into a spider’s eyeswould give us an answer.
Emlightener, A. (2014). “The Illusion of Animal Intelligence”. Journal of Spiderology. 12 (23). pp. 233-245. p. 237
These two cases were sent to the Centre for Curative Liquid for further investigation.