The human sex drive is, we might say, instinctual, just as it is in animals, and so seems to drive our urge to experience orgasmic pain or pleasure regardless of the context. But context is important and as we know for humans the context can differ hugely between two poles. So, on the one hand the context may be a desire to care – the impossible but nonetheless pursued fantasy of love as if for love’s sake – or on the other hand the context may simply be to subjugate and destroy,
Much like Professor Sir Roy Paterson the famous entrepreneur Me David Welch is more risk taker than a lover despite his avowed obsessions with gambling, sex and God. Brash and assertive Welch nonetheless is riven by fear of failure. He would deny this of course and hides it well but, especially now, we wonder if it is Death itself he fears more than his professed love of risk. Perhaps now we could even call Death his phobia.
Sadly for Welch he has now been confronted by the Grim Reaper and his risk taking days may soon be over. Recent scans have shown that his lung cancer has spread throughout his lungs and into his brain. This knowledge has re-focused his already highly focused and capable mind.
He had noticed the first symptoms only three months ago, a persistent cough (worse than his everyday asthma cough) and traces of blood in his spit. The brusque and imposing but competent physician in Hobart, Dr Smallwood, performed a diagnostic and therapeutic bronchoscopy under general anaesthetic and removed some of the tumor but by then it was already too late. He was becoming more breathless and a subsequent scan revealed widespread lung and brain metastases. The cough and shortness of breath were only partially allayed by a course of radiotherapy. He hasn’t, as yet, said anything to his (second) wife and so far she doesn’t suspect anything especially given his as yet undiminished goat-like lustfulness.
Not used to failure let alone the idea of his own mortality he has sought and paid for second and third medical opinions. He can easily afford these since he is an exceptionally successful professional gambler and partner in an Australian gambling syndicate of mathematical geniuses with an annual turnover of $2.4 billion and over 300 employees. Nonetheless, despite all this brain power and wealth he keeps being presented with the same unacceptable answer: No mate, No Cure for Cancer on the market for you. With little time he knows that his options are running out fast. But Welch isn’t the type to give up and he refuses to go out with a whimper.
And so Welch is determined still to honor his commitment to visit the studio of one of the young artists he has patronized Tomás Saraceno in Argentina, and it is a ruminating, fatigued, breathless but still curious and intrigued Welch who catches the plane to see Tomás his new spider and it’s ‘surprising’ web.
Welch now in his 50s has known the young intelligent and talented environmental activist and artist Tomás who is young and in his mid twenties for about two years. He has previously patronized Tomás’s work at his gallery MONA in Hobart Tasmania with exhibitions of BETA using mass spectrometry to separate out and display images of pollution, dust, cosmic particles – ways of seeing the impacts of both space and human activity on the earth’s atmosphere. Welch claims the art of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) isn’t intended to provoke but a lot of it does, it makes you look at the world differently, even more perspicaciously. Tomás had recently contacted Welch about his new project, installations of spider webs created by different spiders, using the web structures and their intersecting networks of planes as a new way of seeing the world and even of seeing how the universe itself might have originated and be structured in the form of similar intersecting web-like networks. Welch had been intrigued by this concept and asked if he could come to Tomás’s studio to see for himself. Then Tomás had called Welch again, excited, and told him that there had been another development, the amazing discovery deep in the caves of the ancient primeval rain forests of Argentina of a previously unknown species of spider even older than the oldest known spider the prehistoric Tasmanian Cave Spider (Hickmania troglodytes) discovered in 1883. It is thought this newly discovered spider species provisionally named the Giant Argentinian Cave Spider would have first existed at a time over 100 million years ago when Argentina and Tasmania were literally adjacent, joined together as part of a single land mass, at a time when the human’s ancestors were still lizards.
Tomás knew the people involved in the discovery and had been given an opportunity, in collaboration with scientists specializing in web structures, to use his techniques to investigate the spider’s web patterns of construction. And Tomás had discovered this spider’s web has surprising and very special properties. Tomás refused to say more over the phone but urged Welch to hurry, to come to his studio as soon as he could as he had a live specimen of the new species making webs for him but only for a very limited time.
Welch has plenty of time for thinking during the flight and as he dozes fitfully his mind wanders back over his life, his successes and his failures and a few regrets. In some ways he felt a little guilty, he had cheated the system using clever mathematical algorithms to outwit the maneuverings of the gambling industry. Not his favorite industry either and not the most socially useful way of making money. But at least he now had MONA, his redemption as he saw it, the jewel in his crown, the jewel in Tasmania’s crown if not Australia’s. And to prove it he has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to culture. Not many people knew that MONA very nearly didn’t happen and it was only because of pretty extreme bet laying by his syndicate at the races that he had made the 20 or so million dollars necessary to cover his outstanding bills and turn MONA into concrete reality. Notoriously atheist and obsessed with God and sex now Welch, riddled with cancer, is rapidly reappraising his priorities, or priority, his own impending death and how to organize that to best effect. No-one knows about his diagnosis except him and his oncologist but maybe now he should break the news to his wife. He sleeps on and off during the flight, unusual for him, but then already his mental and physical energy levels are waning as the cancer does it’s work of consuming his life force, his Élan Vital.
Welch strokes the long smooth bonnet of his hired red sports car as he walks by and on into the studio building. He wants to persuade Tomás to display the SpiderWeb installations in his the MONA art gallery in Hobart Tasmania. As he walks into the studio proper the light is dimmed and the atmosphere hushed, the only light a glow from several large glass containers mounted on stands at waist height and each one full of intricate and complex lines and planes of spider webs both casting shadows and reflecting light – smotes of dust. Hi David welcome. Tomás emerged from out of the darkness, lithe, good looking, moving with the athletic easy confidence of the young and talented. Welch looks him over feeling his own frailties more acutely. Thanks Tomás, how’s it going mate? Tomás takes Welch by the arm surprised by the changes in him, more stooped, gaunt, slower, and walks him towards the door to the gallery. Good pretty good David, come and have a look, see for yourself. They meander in the dimmed hush amongst the glass SpiderWeb containers. Welch is awed and fascinated. So Tomás, you said you’d found a brand new spider species here in Argentina? It had surprised you Tomás? Well it wasn’t me who found it so I can’t take credit for that but yes it has been amazing, come here and see. They go further back into the dimness and though another door into another even darker even quieter room with just the hint of light in one corner. This time the glow is different, it vibrates and there is a low frequency hum and there is colour.
As Welch enters the room a crescendo of fear floods his body. He stops and peers into the darkness trembling and breathing rapidly. What’s up? Tomás asks anxiously seeing Welch’s steps falter and grasping his arm. I don’t know what’s that? Welch whispers pointing ahead. In the darkness a shimmering glow appears to stretch out towards them. . Welch though terrified feels compelled to seek it out and takes a few unsteady steps towards the light and the low hum. As he draws closer the shimmering intensifies accompanied by a faint hiss-like clacking. Bloody hell just hold it there don’t move? Welch stops frozen to the spot. What is it? Tomás hangs back then starts walking backwards alarmed by what he is seeing. There is the huge sealed glass case designed by Tomás containing the carbon fiber frame on which the spider has woven its web. But now …. Tomás hadn’t seen anything like this before and it was terrifying.
This is the case holding the prehistoric Giant Argentinian Cave spider. As large as the wheel of an Arctic bound truck it had become swollen erect, and was furiously spraying silk fibers in their direction as his web glowed and shimmered in a range of colours. Rattling its feet against the glazing of the case it beats a tattoo. His entire body throbs and his internal organs pulse in time to the tattoo of the spiders eight feet. Welch groans and clutches first his chest then his groin, his penis has suddenly become hard and erect, his testicles swell, and he feels he is about to die in orgasm … then nothingness.
Welch awoke in hospital. He was aware of a dull ache between his legs but felt somehow enervated.