Sticking with the Sticky Mess

Artist El Morgan is working with Radar on a significant new commission examining the organisms that are drawn to human artefacts, and what a carpet beetle can show us about relationships of production, decay, care and repair.

2 hand-drawn microfauna in bright colours with handwritten text descriptions by their side

(Photo credit: El Morgan)

From the perspective of a carpet beetle, art is delicious. Glues, textiles, papers and even the cables of internet data service centres are tempting food and building materials for many invertebrates, small mammals and microorganisms. For her project with Radar, artist and writer El Morgan will be examining the organisms that are drawn to human artefacts with the aim of creating an alternative vision of multispecies making. Inspired by Dr Pandora Syperek's research into the historical Animal Products collection at the V&A Museum, Morgan will create new films, drawings and editions that visualise the museum as a site of shifting ecologies, where welcome and unwelcome animals gather to feast their eyes and their bellies.   

Most often studied and viewed as pests to be guarded against or destroyed, the animals that eat through the history of human creativity could instead be seen as part of a cyclical process of making and remaking – an alternative ecology of production in which materials and objects are in a permanent process of change against the anxiety of preservationIn El’s work, these circular relationships of production and decay are held alongside personal narratives and lived experience of caring and disability, what it means to live a productive life, and how we produce and reproduce familial relationships of care.   

Over the coming months, keep an eye on Radar’s social media and website for updates on El’s ongoing research.  


About the artist

El Morgan is an artist and writer working with video, sculpture, printmaking and performance to explore our relationship with other animals. This has included serenading a spider, making a diamond from the dead creatures of the River Thames and embracing a giant green sea anemone. Her illustrated book Gossamer Days: Spiders, Humans and Their Threads (Strange Attractor/MIT press, 2016) examines the history of the human uses of spider silk, from gun sights to sticky tunics via acoustic lures and royal underwear. It was chosen by The Guardian as one of their favourite books of the year.  

Recent exhibitions: Sampler (Performance, Raven Row, 2024);Have you had a productive day? (Commission, The Serpentine Gallery, 2023) Naissance (Group exhibition, Unit Gallery, London, 2023); Tale of the Frozen Bits (Solo, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 2023); le Mostra della Laguna (Group exhibition, Sale Docks, Venice, 2021); 100 ways to say we (Group exhibition, Venice Architecture Biennale, 2021). 

For more information on El please click on the following links to visit her website and instagram.


El Morgan

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