Throughout the year I examined the many ways humans have “backgrounded” nature through the stylisation of plant forms into decorative motifs. In particular the process of simplification and abstraction involved in the moving away from fidelity to the physical plants themselves and towards a more graphic representation of them. Furthermore I thought about the ways this manipulation has been used in our everyday art and architecture, ultimately to show control and power over the ‘outside’ world.
I was involved in organising the 6-week short course ‘Sculpting Land’ – which looked at how to find and process raw clay material, simple hand building techniques, and finished with a Raku kiln firing. We invited Rosanna Martin to discuss the Brickfields project in Cornwall, Jonathan Taylor from the British Museum to present the central role clay played in the development of the written language in ancient Mesopotamia, Clayspace Studios led a series of practical making sessions followed by a Raku firing, and we finished the course with a walk along Margate seafront followed by a lunch with Luke from WildFoodFolk.
These sessions, as well as others outside of the short course, helped me to consider how our relationship to a ‘natural’ world has been shaped by people (business executives, soldiers, engineers) who have seen nature as a resource to be tamed, managed and exploited. Alongside this is our relationship to nature as something to be sought out, and, through tourism, marvelled and enjoyed. This has brought into question my own relationship to clay and how it is extracted from the ground through industrial processes. Even the small scale ‘wild’ clay collecting I have done brings up questions around the ethics of foraging and the hubris of making things on a planet filling up with waste.