Bombyx mori, the domestic silk moth, is a species of moth that humans have domesticated over 5000 years of silk production. The silk harvesting process has been optimised for more efficiency and productivity in many aspects such as their habitat, food, and harvesting equipment. In this capitalistic practice, the insects are killed as their cocoon is boiled for harvesting the silk fibre, and they are unable to complete their lifecycle. This asymmetric relationship can be seen as anthropocentric, where the moths are exploited for materialistic human benefit. 

This project explores a less exploitative human-silkworm relationship through newly designed habitats. The three habitats for different developmental stages of this species are connected to capacitive sensors that detect these insects’ “touches”. The signals from seemingly random movements of the silkworms and silk moths are converted to tones and compose generative ambient music that changes throughout their life cycles, creating nonhuman rhythms and melodies. This uncontrollableness of their motions challenges our anthropocentric notion of trying to control nonhuman entities for our needs. This sonic experience combined with visual stimulation of their lives in the habitats invites stewardship where humans care for them only to let them live their lives to the full. 

Can it not be about silk? What do we receive from the moths when we do not control them? The project showcases an example of multi-species interaction design through tangible artefacts and evokes discussions on the possibilities and the limitations of a more-than-human design approach.

Project by: Yuta Ikeya
Project coach: Bahareh Barati
One-hour recording of the music