the two hands of a young child are folded out on a grey parquet floor, making a diamond shape with the thumbs. between them is a spindly spider which the child is playing with
El Morgan, Have you had a productive day?, still

Have you had a productive day?

A video work by artist and writer El Morgan explores vulnerability, interdependence and the messy crossings of human and animal bodies.

In response to the vast scales on which lifeforms are interconnected in the exhibition Tomás Saraceno In Collaboration: Web(s) of Life, Morgan looked to the networks of interdependence in her immediate surroundings. From fungal infections to children playing with a spider, the interactions between lifeforms here are unidealised, taking place in car parks and living rooms, as much as in ‘wild’ environments.

As the camera zooms in on the daily lives of local invertebrates – worms, moths, beetles, spiders, hoverfly larvae – we see lives viscerally entangled by digestion, sex, and movement. Morgan’s vulnerable and humorous narrations hint at the pressures of expectation and productivity, especially within the process of artmaking.

Working against the familiar framing of nature documentaries – which often rely on narrative, character and even a sense of morality – Morgan’s video work instead uses techniques more common to comedy, horror or experimental filmmaking, such as unexpected contrasts, long pauses and quick cuts. Like a child playing freely with bugs, here the artist makes connections in an uninhibited way that allows for ambiguity.

El Morgan is an artist and writer working with video, performance, printmaking, and drawing to explore our messy relationships with other species. This has included serenading spiders, teaching ants to draw self-portraits and making a diamond from the dead creatures of the River Thames. Her illustrated book, Gossamer Days: Spiders, Humans and Their Threads (Strange Attractor Press, 2016) tells the history of the human uses of spider silk. Recent exhibitions include Tale of the Frozen Bits (Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 2023), 100 ways to say we (Venice Architecture Biennale, 2021) and Le Mostra della Laguna (Sale Docks, Venice, 2021-22).


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