Neri Oxman, W. Craig Carter. Imaginary Beings (Arachne). 2012

Neri Oxman, with W. Craig Carter Imaginary Beings (Arachne) 2012

  • Not on view

This work is one in a series of eighteen speculative designs, each referencing a creature from Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings (1957)—a compendium of descriptions and stories of fantastic creatures compiled from various literary sources. Arachne—as described in the narrative poem The Metamorphoses by the first-century Roman poet Ovid—was a mortal weaver whom the Greek goddess Athena transformed into a spider as punishment for boasting that her talents surpassed those of the goddess and for daring to create a more beautiful weaving.

Oxman was inspired by the variability of spider silk—spiders are known to spin up to six kinds of thread, each with a different tensility and purpose. Though Oxman also took inspiration from the myth of Arachne and the insolent weaver’s arthropod descendants, this flexible armor is modeled after the human rib cage and is meant to augment its function by shielding bony tissue and providing muscular flexibility. This conceptual design for human augmentation was constucted with the help of cutting-edge 3D-printing technology.

Oxman has dubbed her creations “design provocations”—tools and a vocabulary with which to discuss and propose new, economical, and sustainable approaches to building and living. As a whole, the eighteen pieces in the Imaginary Beings series form a library of design principles inspired by nature, informed by mythology, and executed by technology.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019).
Design firm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, MIT Materials Science and Engineering
3D printed multicolored Vero acrylic polymer
approx. 20.5 x 13 x 9" (72.4 x 33 x 22.9cm) irreg.
Committee on Architecture and Design Funds
Object number
© 2019 Neri Oxman
Architecture and Design

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