Net

I haven’t blogged for ages, because I’ve been working on the paintings for BOAA, the Biennale of Australian Art. (See their website: http://www.boaa.net.au) But I must have been writing, because I found this in my journal although I have only the vaguest memory of having written it. So, belatedly:

If I say ‘net’, what does it mean to you?

If you lived on the coast of far northern Australia you might think of fishing: throw nets to trap little darting silvery fish for bait. Drag nets for hauling up larger fish in larger numbers from deeper water. Ghost nets – the nets that have come loose and that now float about trapping and killing unwary sea life to no purpose.

Nets have been used to trap living creatures of all kinds, from butterflies to tigers – or to keep them out. We net the fruit trees. Nets are for keeping in, and for keeping out. They are a human device invented for controlling nature. Can you remember when old ladies wore hair nets? And hats had veils? It was all, one way or another, even if self-imposed, about control.

Most likely, however, living in the present, if I said ‘net’ you would think of the internet. I will leave the parallels between one sort of net and the other for you to consider.

I’m interested not so much in the net according to its function, but according to its construction. Fibres twisted and interwoven, web-like. Leaving plenty of gaps for air and water, sustainers of life, to flow through unimpeded. Feeling neither trapped nor excluded, merely connected.

The very word ‘web’, of course, also immediately suggests the internet, and I’m sure that those who coined those terms were thinking of it as a means of connection. The only question is whether you are part of the fabric of the thing, or something that gets caught in it. The web, or the fly. Human inventiveness is the spider.

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