The Anthropocenic wound of extinction is grounded in Linnean species ontics, which both inscribes the notion of biological individuality and buttresses ideas of species hierarchy that undergird anthropocentric thinking. An ethics of relation grounded in human exceptionalism has since proved disastrous for countless nonhuman lives, particularly those bodies now at risk of erasure. In this way, extant notions of life recursively open the wound of death (specifically, the death of the other). Such categorical distinctions have long been complicated by biosciences’ claim for symbiotic relation as the basis of life (e.g. Margulis, Gilbert), and by posthumanities’ claim (e.g. Braidotti, Haraway) for relationality as an ontological ground that substitutes being for becomings-with. This paper responds to calls for novel figures and concepts adequate to representing porous, entangled, transcorporeal, nomadic and becoming-imperceptible subjects. It engages Braidotti’s philosophy of life as a transversal vital force (Zoe) to propose the figuration of the web-building spider—the arachnomad—whose queer ethologies and life/death ecologies complicate binary, mechanistic notions of life, sex, death, and bodily thresholds. It considers how Zoephilic engagements with arachnomadic figures might queer categorical thinking, and mobilise a more nuanced ethics of relation across thresholds of difference: human/nonhuman, self/other, life/death.
Ally Bisshop is an artist, writer and researcher, currently working within the transdisciplinary Arachnophilia Department in the studio of artist Tomás Saraceno. She first studied biological science (B.Sc. Hons 1 Microbiology), before turning to artistic practice—studying at the UDK Berlin through Olafur Eliasson’s Institut für Räumexperimente, and completing a practice-based artistic PhD in 2018 (UNSW Sydney, National Institute for Experimental Arts).